December 2013 President’s Message

Greetings from Camden!

I am sure you are all a bit harried in getting everything ready for the holidays in the next few weeks. I hope you have a chance to slow down enough to consider this past year, its blessings and its challenges. In a reflective mood today I want to highlight the accomplishments of CFET in this past year. We are able to do this work with your financial support. I hope you will consider clicking on the “donate” button to help us continue as we move into 2014.

2013 has been an extraordinary year at CFET. We have been blessed by the arrival of our new Urban Farmer and Educator, Ari Rosenberg. She came in March and got right to work. Below are some of the numbers from the garden:

• CFET produced 3,735 seedlings; 406 seedlings were sold at area plants sales and at our farmers’ market and 132 were given to local schools and organizations starting their own gardens in Camden.
• As of the end of November our gardens had produced 2,250 lbs of food in 2013. 1141 lbs were used in our cooking and nutrition programs, donated to RESPOND in North Camden, preserved, or brought home by program participants and volunteers. 1109 lbs were sold at our Farmers’ Market, to Greensgrow Farms for their SNAP box program, or to the Food Bank of South Jersey for their Cooking Matters class.
• We’ve had 789 volunteers on the farm this year including 167 people over 23 years old, 568 individuals between 14-23 year olds, and 54 individuals 13 or under. These volunteers have collectively worked 3201.25 hours!

With support from The New Jersey Tree Foundation and TD Bank, CFET also transformed the old tree nursery on Ferry Ave into a fruit orchard and took over ownership of the lots. The new orchard is home to baby apricot, plumcot, plum, and pear trees. In the spring we will plant elderberry, fig, persimmon, and asian pear trees to fill in the rest of the lot.

Native Plant Nursery
CFET produced around 700 native plants this year. 555 were planted in rain gardens throughout Camden in coordination with Camden SMART. The rest were donated or sold to Camden schools and residents. Native plants are particularly important in Camden because of their ability to absorb water and help reduce the amount of water flowing into our combined sewer system. Thanks to the CCMUA for housing the nursery, supporting our expansion into raised vegetable beds, and for use of the sprinkler system! The nursery would not exist if not for their support.

Jr. Farmers
Ari, with support from Chloe Warnick, an AmeriCorps volunteer, was also able to revamp the Jr. Farmers program into a comprehensive job-training program focused on building leadership skills for teens ages 14-19. This year Jr. Farmers were able to work more hours and their pay was increased! 9 teens completed the eight-week long summer program. Using gardening and nutrition as vehicles to teach about being positive role models and active community leaders, the Jr. Farmer program literally grows young people into responsible adults.

The Jr. Farmers also participated in two Youth led Participatory Action Research (YPAR) projects. During the first project Jr. Farmers surveyed Waterfront South residents about their interest in potential value-added products that CFET may be able to produce. Residents are most interested in hot sauce, pickles, and jam! The second YPAR project involved going to 5 area corner stores and analyzing the products available. Jr. Farmers also interviewed store management. Through this project Jr. Farmers learned that there are very few “healthy” options at the area corner stores: most of the fruit and vegetables that were offered did not look fresh and were expensive, most beans had added salt, and none of the stores offered whole wheat flour or low-fat dairy. One of the stores expressed interest in learning more about buying produce from CFET.

Three Junior Farmers were able to go with Ari to the Rooted in Community conference in Los Angeles. The five day conference included field trips to urban farm sites throughout Los Angeles, opportunities to connect with other young food system leaders from organizations throughout the country, and youth led workshops on everything from spoken word poetry and button making, to running successful campaigns, to climate change and land grabbing. The second of the YPAR projects came from questions that came up for Selena, Gloria, and Marisely while they were in Los Angeles.

Five of the Jr. Farmers continued to work with CFET throughout the fall – supporting monthly volunteer days, the Farmers’ Market, and our Garden SEEDS program.

Garden SEEDS
Garden SEEDS (Service, Eating, Education, Diversity & Silliness), new in 2013, is a program for children ages 9-13 to engage in hands-on cooking and garden exploration activities, that uses a seed-to-table curriculum developed by CFET staff that focuses on the hands-on exploration of food and where it comes from. Participants met twice weekly throughout the summer, exploring nutrition themes, gaining cooking skills, and exploring everything from good and bad bugs, germination to harvesting, and soil composition. 22 kids have participated in the summer Garden SEEDS programming.
Retreat Facility
This year we hosted 28 Environmental Justice themed retreats serving a total of 462 participants. This is an increase of 283.5% over 2012. We’ve been visited by many groups including Villanova University, Loyola-Blakefield HS, King’s College, Neumann University and Bishop Eustace Preparatory School.

Some wonderful anticipation in 2014

Assistant Farmers
Designed for alumni Junior Farmers, this program will focus on leadership development. Assistant Farmers will be responsible for leading weekly workshops, developing garden work plans, and supporting the Garden SEEDS children’s program. We are hoping to hire 3 Assistant Farmers in 2014. They will spend February and March helping plan the summer Jr. Farmers program and learning how to create and facilitate workshops.

Value-added products
Thanks to support from the New Jersey Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, CFET will start creating a line of value-added products to sell at our Farmers’ Market, at local corner stores, and in surrounding communities. The project will be incorporated into our Jr. Farmers program, offering more in-depth training on business development and entrepreneurship as well as food preservation and safe food handling.

Corporate/Foundation Support
In addition to the New Jersey Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, CFET received support from the Subaru Foundation, the Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation and Susquehanna Bank for the first time this year, and continue to be supported by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Merck Family Fund, The Citizen’s Bank Foundation, the Danellie Foundation, Campbell’s Soup and the Campbell’s Soup Foundation. It means a great deal to us at CFET that these foundations and corporations find value in our work and our willing to support us.

What a year 2013 has been! Full of blessings, full of accomplishments!

I speak for all of us at CFET when I wish you a Happy Christmas, a new year filled with wonderful blessings, and an opportunity to spend time reflecting on the bountiful grace of our Creator! I am never anything but amazed at what God has done in Waterfront South, and will continue to do as we move forward in 2014.

Mark Doorley, Ph.D.

President, Board of Trustees

The Center for Environmental Transformation