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Dear Residents,Right now, farm stands display bushels overflowing with freshly-picked, local fruit and vegetables, especially ‘Jersey’ tomatoes! Rich in flavor, tenderness, and juiciness, vine-ripened tomatoes from New Jersey are the best in the world!Randolph enjoys a rich farming history. Randolph’s first citizens made their living directly or indirectly (millers, blacksmiths, storekeepers, tanners, coopers) from the land. This way of life was characteristic of rural America in the 19th century....
Right now, farm stands display bushels overflowing with freshly-picked, local fruit and vegetables, especially ‘Jersey’ tomatoes! Rich in flavor, tenderness, and juiciness, vine-ripened tomatoes from New Jersey are the best in the world!
Randolph enjoys a rich farming history. Randolph’s first citizens made their living directly or indirectly (millers, blacksmiths, storekeepers, tanners, coopers) from the land. This way of life was characteristic of rural America in the 19th century.
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Fertile Randolph land provided local farmers with an abundance of vegetable and grain crops, peach and apple orchards, and dairy farms. In 1806 – the first year records were kept – the municipal tax assessor identified one-hundred farms in Randolph.
While barely a handful of these farms still exist today, it is only natural that Randolph would someday have its own community garden. The number one past time in the United States, gardening was already very popular in Randolph.
The introduction of a community garden in Randolph epitomized residents identifying a new recreational opportunity, forming a committee of interested volunteers, researching the options, and seeing it through to completion. The community garden movement began with the victory gardens during World War II, when Americans began growing fruits and vegetables in backyards, empty lots, even rooftops to supplement rationed foods.
Randolph’s community garden committee was formed in 2011 and was tasked to evaluate other local municipal community garden efforts and to determine if there was a sustaining interest in Randolph for a community garden. Analysis of other municipal community gardens included the size and number of planting beds, what resources are provided, whether the garden should be organic, and fencing requirements. Years of volunteer effort resulted in the inclusion of a community garden in Randolph Township’s 2016 Parks and Recreation Master Plan followed by site selection in the soon-to-be-developed Veterans Community Park.
Randolph’s community garden is located in the new Veterans Community Park on Calais Road. Veterans Community Park has been recognized with the Morris Park Alliance facility award in 2022 and the New Jersey Recreation and Park Association (NJRPA) 2023 Excellence in Design Award for a Multi-Use Facility in 2023.
Opened in 2020, Randolph’s community garden consists of 168 organic planting beds, each measuring six feet wide by fourteen feet long. Members of all ages and all skill levels from beginners just getting started with gardening through experienced master gardeners each pay a $40 annual fee per planting bed to cover all the expenses of running the community garden, including garden tools, mulch, compost, and water. More than just a planting bed rental, your community garden membership affords you an opportunity to meet some great new friends with whom you can learn and share.
New community garden members are required to participate in an orientation program – topics covered include organic gardening best practices, bug and weed control, and gardener expectations. Periodic meetings are held to cover interesting gardening topics, and there are also walk-and-talk programs where gardeners walk around the garden and share gardening experiences and ideas. Gardeners regularly review bug reports from Rutgers University.
The community garden has proven to be an excellent addition to Randolph’s already extensive list of successful recreation opportunities and has grown to include a pollinator garden in 2021. The garden is also home to blue bird houses, a seed-sharing cabinet, and park benches to enjoy the serenity of the garden with a neighbor and an ice tea. In the spirit of giving back, gardeners have partnered with the Randolph Food Pantry and the Interfaith Food Pantry providing hundreds of pounds of fresh produce annually.
Gardening is considered exercise by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and getting involved with a community garden is an enjoyable means of producing your own food while sharing your gardening passion and expertise with your neighbors.
Please contact the Randolph Township Department of Parks and Recreation at 973-989-7081 to learn more about Randolph’s community garden.
Now more than ever, it is important to stay informed. On the front page of our Township website there is a button labeled “Stay Informed!” If you click on it, you can sign up for Township information broadcast systems and view news, events, and emergency notices.
If I can assist you in any way, please reach out to me. My contact information is located on the Township website. Stay safe, and enjoy everything that Randolph has to offer!
Mayor, Randolph Township 2023
“Small things count,” read a headline in the tiny, insistent pamphlet published by the National War Garden Commission in 1919. The pitch made gardening a civic duty.And though the illustrations were cute, the text was urgent: “Prevention of widespread starvation is the peacetime obligation of the United States. … The War Garden of 1918 must become the Victory Garden of 1919.”The victor...
“Small things count,” read a headline in the tiny, insistent pamphlet published by the National War Garden Commission in 1919. The pitch made gardening a civic duty.
And though the illustrations were cute, the text was urgent: “Prevention of widespread starvation is the peacetime obligation of the United States. … The War Garden of 1918 must become the Victory Garden of 1919.”
The victory garden movement began during World War I and called on Americans to grow food in whatever spaces they could — rooftops, fire escapes, empty lots, backyards. It maintained that there was nothing more valuable than self-sufficiency, than working a little land, no matter how small, and harvesting your own eggplant and tomatoes.
That idea resonates as trips to the grocery store become fraught with fears of coronavirus exposure, and shoppers worry that industrial agriculture could fail them during a pandemic.
When victory gardens came back to prominence during World War II, newspapers and magazines gleefully documented national gardening initiatives, with Life Magazine publishing full-page images of “pretty girls in becoming shorts” digging the ground in 1943.
It looked like a stunt, but so many people took the movement to heart that, at one point, it’s estimated that home, school and community gardeners produced close to 40 percent of the country’s fresh vegetables, from about 20 million gardens.
As the war ended, and lawns took over American backyards, those earnest posters of cheery home gardeners and fierce-looking vegetables became a relic of wartime scarcity — until a few weeks ago.
With panicked shoppers cleaning out stores, and basic foods like dried beans and potatoes becoming increasingly difficult to track down, even those with no gardening experience are searching for do-it-yourself YouTube videos on how to build a raised bed.
On the first day of spring, home gardeners planted seeds and saplings. Savvy nurseries rushed to get their inventories online so shoppers could pay in advance and make contactless, curbside pickups. Bags of potting soil sold out. Corn, sorghum, squash, kale and cabbage seeds moved fast.
“Like every seed company, we’ve had a huge uptick in sales,” said Nate Kleinman, who lives and farms in southern New Jersey (where nurseries and farming supply stores have been classed as essential businesses).
“People seem to be preparing for some serious disruptions in the food supply. I’m not alone in feeling concerned with how this may go down,” he said.
Mr. Kleinman co-founded the Experimental Farm Network in 2013, a nonprofit in Philadelphia, that connects amateur farmers, gardeners, plant breeders and researchers, and also sells organic seeds.
When Mr. Kleinman put up a call on his social media for planting “Corona Victory Gardens,” alongside an image of Superman, Batman and Robin gardening on the cover of a 1943 issue of “World’s Finest Comics,” he heard back almost immediately from 1,000 eager gardeners. The majority of them were amateurs, looking for seeds, lumber to build raised beds and basic information about soil and how to grow food, he said.
“The war-garden model was inspiring for a lot of people, because there were all these huge forces at work around the globe that were out of their control,” Mr. Kleinman said. But he added that the term “victory garden” makes some modern farmers cringe because of its military connotations, and its use during the internment of Japanese-Americans, many of whom were farmers themselves.
The group didn’t want to build a new movement around the old term, and decided to call themselves the “Cooperative Gardens Commission.”
The victory garden program may be more than a century old, but “the parallels right now are pretty stark,” said Rose Hayden-Smith, the author of “Sowing the Seeds of Victory: American Gardening Programs of World War I.”
The first such push started in the context of another pandemic, the influenza outbreak of 1918. “You have to remember, we lost more Americans to the flu than we did to the battlefield,” she said.
Gardens flourished on the home front because people were eager to build their own community-based food security, and to cultivate something beautiful and useful in times of great stress and uncertainty, Ms. Hayden-Smith said.
But ask any farmer — gardening is hard work, growth is slow and yields can be unpredictable.
In 1943, The Times ran a story on the disappointments and failures of the millions of first-time gardeners who had thrown themselves into planting gardens without much experience, and were now hesitant to invest in insecticides or soil tests.
“The First Year Is the Hardest,” the headline assured readers, but it wasn’t assuring enough. A year later, The Times reported that “no amount of warning will make people plant their Victory gardens again this year unless they are convinced that they are really needed.”
The craze slowed down. Millions of gardens were abandoned.
On Wednesday, there were about six inches of snow on the ground outside Albany, where Leah Penniman works as the farm manager of Soul Fire Farm, but next week, she and her team will build a vegetable garden for a refugee family in nearby Troy, N.Y.
Ms. Penniman, the author of “Farming While Black,” stressed that provision gardening wasn’t new, not even a century ago when the federal government partnered with private organizations and grass-roots efforts to promote gardens in pamphlets, posters and short films.
“What we stand for now is what our elders and ancestors have always stood for,” Ms. Penniman said. “To free ourselves, we must feed ourselves.”
Soul Fire Farm builds about 10 large gardens a year for households, schools, churches and communities in need of fresh food, providing the labor, lumber, soil and coaching to complete each project.
After sending out an email on Monday to remind people of the program during the pandemic, Ms. Penniman said she had already received 50 requests — the demand for five years’ worth of gardens in a single day.
“In some ways we’ve been preparing for this all our lives as organizers and as small-scale farmers,” she said. “As we see the systems we’ve come to rely on show their cracks, we are called to rise to the moment.”
Eating in New York City
New Jersey got a little taste of spring fever Wednesday afternoon, even though the calendar claims it’s still early winter.Thanks to warm air flowing in from the southwest, temperatures have soared into the 60s in many areas of the state, and the mercury reached a balmy 70 degrees near Atlantic Ci...
New Jersey got a little taste of spring fever Wednesday afternoon, even though the calendar claims it’s still early winter.
Thanks to warm air flowing in from the southwest, temperatures have soared into the 60s in many areas of the state, and the mercury reached a balmy 70 degrees near Atlantic City, according to preliminary data from the National Weather Service.
If that reading holds up at the end of the day, it will be the warmest Jan. 4 on record at Atlantic City International Airport in the Pomona section of Galloway Township. The current record is 68 degrees, set in 1950.
The airport isn’t the only hot spot Wednesday afternoon. Egg Harbor Township, also in Atlantic County, hit a high of 71 degrees, and at least nine other towns or sections of towns in central and southern New Jersey have reached highs of 69 degrees, as of 2 p.m., according to automated temperature data from the Rutgers NJ Weather Network.
Those places are Berkeley Township, Cedar Bridge, Hammonton, Howell, Oswego Lake, Piney Hollow, Toms River, Wall Township and Woodbine.
Heavy cloud cover has kept some parts of northern and central New Jersey in the low to mid-60s Wednesday afternoon, putting other daily records out of reach.
As of 1:55 p.m., the warmest temperature reading at Newark Liberty International Airport on Wednesday has been 66 degrees. That’s 2 degrees shy of tying Newark’s record high for Jan. 4, set in 2000.
Trenton Mercer Airport in Ewing has reported a high of 63 degrees on Wednesday, which is far short of its record high of 68 degrees for Jan. 4, also set in 2000.
New York City’s Central Park tied its record high for Jan. 4 when the temperature there rose to 66 degrees in the afternoon, according to the National Weather Service’s regional office in New York.
Temperatures in New Jersey are expected to retreat into the 50s on Thursday, followed by a noticeable cooldown on Friday, Saturday and Saturday, with daytime highs returning into the 40s and overnight lows falling into upper 20s to low 30s, according to forecasts from the National Weather Service.
Although no major snowstorms are expected anytime soon, the weather service says there is a chance of some light snow in northwestern sections of New Jersey Saturday evening and possibly again on Sunday night or early Monday morning.
In early January, high temperatures in our region normally range from 40 to 44 degrees and lows typically range from 25 to 27 degrees.
Thank you for relying on us to provide the local weather news you can trust. Please consider supporting NJ.com with a subscription.
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In April, we were so starved for life and living that we saved a sprouted cooking onion, named it the Hope Onion, and grew it in a vase indoors where we could watch its pale roots get long and tangled. Meanwhile, The New York Times called us “scallion nation,” and people on the Internet thought we all should be victory gardeners again.At the ...
In April, we were so starved for life and living that we saved a sprouted cooking onion, named it the Hope Onion, and grew it in a vase indoors where we could watch its pale roots get long and tangled. Meanwhile, The New York Times called us “scallion nation,” and people on the Internet thought we all should be victory gardeners again.
At the Fenway Victory Gardens on a recent Sunday in May, Brenda Velez, in overalls and a mask, was working her plot.
“I got my seeds ready,” Velez said. “I’m ready to go.”
There are real victory gardeners in Boston already — 405 of them, down on the Fens, tending 15-by-25-foot plots where their own onions have deep roots in the historic ground, where the radishes are up, the lilacs in bloom, and the resurrection in full swing.
Community gardens have been allowed to remain open during the shutdown, and this of course includes the Fenway Victory Gardens. Established in 1942, it is the nation’s oldest surviving war garden. On the original 7.5 acres along the Muddy River, just one block from Fenway Park, it endures.
During World War II, the Fenway Victory Gardens was one of 49 planted all over the city, including on Boston Common. A neighboring piece of land on the Fenway was even maintained as a “model victory garden” by the Globe, which published lengthy front-page articles about its progress.
Victory gardens famously produced 44 percent of Americans’ wartime fruits and vegetables. Some 2,600 families participated in Boston, 20 million nationwide, according to “To Dwell Is to Garden: A History of Boston’s Community Gardens” by Sam Bass Warner Jr.
“I can’t even tell you how exciting it is to be part of that [history],” said Velez, 54, a visual merchandiser who designs store displays and whom the pandemic has forced out of a job.
“I feel like this is another war, a different one. We’re still there [at the Victory Gardens]. We’re not going anywhere,” she said. “We’re still out there with Mother Earth, making the most of things.”
Americans have gardened through many of the great crises in our history, and those without their own land have planted on public property.
During the depression of the 1890s, Mayor Hazen Pingree created potato patch gardens for Detroit’s unemployed. In Boston in 1895, 52 men and two women each harvested some 20 to 55 bushels of potatoes on land the Industrial Aid Society for the Prevention of Pauperism secured, Warner wrote. Similar efforts were restarted during the Great Depression — relief gardens, thrift gardens.
Unlike the victory gardens of World Wars I and II, these gardens are little known today. Poverty is light on propaganda, heavy on potatoes.
Many temporary gardens — glorified and not — simply vanished after the time of need. Not on the Fens, where gardeners adapted to peacetime, mounting a successful campaign at the mayor’s office and shifting production from food to flowers.
“As far as is known, there is no identical project in this country,” late cofounder Richard D. Parker wrote in a typescript preserved at the Massachusetts Historical Society. “It is indeed an outstanding privilege to have a garden in The Fenway.”
Many of today’s gardeners live nearby, in small homes made even smaller by stay-at-home advisories. Christine Nelson, 34, a pharmacist, told me her victory garden is actually bigger than the Fenway apartment she shares with her husband.
Walking the Victory Gardens’ narrow, wood-chipped lanes is an intimate affair. One peers not into conventional community garden plots, but into the vast outdoor living rooms of the little-apartment people. There are couches and benches and chairs, and lawns as smooth as area rugs. Shiny bric-a-brac catching the thin, early morning sun. A statue of Jizo, the Japanese splinter-removing god. All kinds of things, a vast collection — every gardener’s own mark.
“A lot of people refer to it as a large backyard,” said Gerald Cooper, 77, who is keeping busy building a brick patio in the back of the plot he’s had for more than 20 years.
“I’m there every day, five or six hours at least. Even when there’s rain, I’ll think about going. I usually debate about whether to go down there in the rain or stay in the apartment and clean it up,” he said. “I usually go down there in the rain.”
The gardens are not unchanged. Veterans say there’s a kind of uneasiness now, with old friends and neighbors in masks, 6 feet or more away. Some are converting their plots back to their original purpose.
“Before the pandemic we had a lot of gardeners that were raising perennials, flowers, and some herbs,” said Elizabeth Bertolozzi, Fenway Victory Gardens president. “[Now] people are really determined to do some additional vegetable gardening, because every little bit helps and they’re just concerned that maybe they could put their plots to better use.”
Rick Richter, vice president of the Victory Gardens, is planting an all-vegetable crop for the first time. He’s got 150 tomato plants started in his small apartment.
“I’ve got grow lights all over the place and plants all over,” Richter, 64, explained from home. “It’s going to be a little jungle in here, so I’m really hoping for some warm weather pretty soon.”
The Trustees of Reservations, which manages 56 Boston community gardens (although not the Fenway Victory Gardens, a nonprofit on city land), reports a surge in requests for plots this spring. Applications have doubled. And even in good times, there are not enough plots to meet demand.
“The major role of food access is of course highlighted in this economically insecure time,” said Michelle de Lima, who is the engagement manager for The Trustees’ community gardens. “[But] I don’t think realistically the majority of those people are [gardening] because they have no other way to get food. I think they’re doing it because they’re going a little crazy and they need something positive and hopeful in their lives.”
Zachary Nowak, a historian of urban agriculture and a Harvard College fellow, agreed.
“As far as victory gardens becoming the source of everyone’s food, I don’t know,” he said. “But those people … who just grow flowers and flowering bushes … are giving a much more important gift to the rest of us in the city — and that’s just hope, straight up.”
Scott Zak is one such victory gardener. The 58-year-old Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center nurse grows only flowers in the sunbaked plot he’s had for 25 years: marigolds, zinnias, nasturtiums, and three colors of statice: purple, white, and blue.
He works in the organ transplant unit, so he cannot bring flowers into the hospital, but sometimes he’ll take pictures for his patients.
He said that even in a non-COVID-19 unit, the situation at Beth Israel is very tense.
“It’s horrible. Everything you see on TV is accurate,” he reported. “We were having a meeting among nurses and other staff members — kind of, like, get in touch of how we’re dealing with stress — and the social worker says, ‘Does anyone have any ways of dealing with stress?’ Everyone kind of looked at each other, like, not really, you know, just grin and bear it. And then one of the nurses said, ‘Well, Scott, you have your garden, don’t you?’ ”
Gardens created for war have become a refuge from a new plague and new problems.
“It doesn’t mean to say that you go there and you forget that everything is happening,” explained Marie Fukuda, 54, a victory gardener on the Fens and a project coordinator at Massachusetts General Hospital. “But it’s a reminder that there’s a pace of things that will continue regardless of whether we continue — and although that sounds weird, it’s also very comforting.”
After 24 years, “I can go out there and the same pesky weed that drives me crazy is coming up at around the same time it always does,” Fukuda said.
In springs and summers past, Seth Kilgore, a 64-year-old John Hancock Financial Services employee, could be seen walking from the garden to his South End apartment with a bucketful of fresh-cut flowers: peonies, zinnias, sunflowers.
Daffodils are his favorites, and over the past two decades he’s accumulated a large collection. Many are hand-me-downs from other victory gardeners who have moved out or moved on.
This spring there were flowers, but no gardener.
“We’ve missed the daffodils this year,” Kilgore said. His wife’s at high risk, so he hasn’t been down to his garden at all. “But there’ll be other years.”