Thursday, March 24, 2016

National Nutrition Month


The month of March brings the Northeast the first signs of spring and the beginning of the agricultural season. March also commemorates National Nutrition Month and while it may not be the first thing to cross our minds, it can be a great part of welcoming a new season. 

What is National Nutrition Month? National Nutrition Month is a celebration, focusing on making smart lifestyle choices by incorporating healthy eating habits and moderate physical activity. Here at City Green, we work to bring to light issues of accessibility, availability and affordability. We know that not everyone has access to affordable food – and that even more folks are unaware of the benefits of eating farm fresh produce. Our programs and organization mission are adamant about bringing more education and access to those in underserved communities.

Why Should I Pay Attention? Evidence shows that sticking to a good diet and incorporating regular exercise lowers the risk for chronic disease, injury and depression. Unfortunately, many people do not have easy access to the vegetables and fruits that help compose a healthy diet.  For instance, in 2013, 29.1% of Paterson residents lived below the poverty level. For those with a family to feed who earn a low income, choosing cheaper, processed food items makes financial sense. Our goal is to create better, more affordable healthy food options.

I live in a city and don’t have a car. How am I supposed to access fresh vegetables? Urban settings, like Paterson, NJ, have to get a little creative when it comes to accessing healthy, farm fresh food. At City Green, we will soon kick off our farm stand season, where will bring our locally grown, delicious vegetables to our markets in Paterson, Passaic and Clifton. Through our Eat Better Tonight Double Value Coupon Program, we are able to maximize the amount of food that residents take home – for each $1 spent in SNAP, WIC, or Senior Checks, we credit $1 in City Green Bucks. This ensures that everyone who visits our farm stands and veggie mobile can afford our organically-grown, fresh produce.

The 2015-2020 DietaryGuidelines stated that infectious disease rates have dropped, but chronic diseases that are diet related have been rising rapidly. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines also stated how research has shown that an intake of vegetables and fruits are associated with a reduced risk of many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, and can prevent against different types of cancers. In Passaic County the three leading causes of death are cancer, cardiac disease and diabetes. A common risk factor for these chronic diseases are obesity. With 25.1% of persons 20years or older being obese in Passaic County, it’s important to take advantage of the fresh and healthy local foods that are available to us through urban agriculture.

This year’s theme for National Nutrition Month is ‘Savor the Flavor of Eating Right’, so the goal is to enjoy food traditions and appreciate the great flavors and social experiences food can bring to our lives. What better opportunity to do so than by eating local foods grown right in the area and sharing the experience with the community? Together, and through urban agriculture, we can lower the already high rates of chronic diseases in our communities.

By: Kathryn Mundhenk

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

City Green Senior Garden Club

A common thread among the elders who participate in the City Green Senior Garden Club is how they establish meaningful connections between food and their own personal life stories. This upcoming November will mark the program’s milestone as a three season therapeutic social horticultural program that encourages social interaction, increases a sense of competency and self-esteem, and connects participants to activities focused on gardening, food, nutrition, and nature.

Gardening at Governor Paterson Towers

The Senior Garden Club works with seniors at two public housing complexes in Paterson. Over the past year, the City Green staff has shared many special moments with the seniors, from planting crops in the gardens to harvesting spring crops to learning about food preservation by making apple sauce and apple cider. All throughout the growing season, the staff has been fortunate to hear about the seniors’ life experiences and learn from these community elders.  

Nutrition lesson with CG staff member, Zariel

A broad spectrum of senior citizens participate in the program, including participants who moved hundreds of miles from their hometowns to look for employment in Paterson decades ago when jobs were plentiful. Many of the seniors in the program also have an agricultural background as they grew up in rural areas in the Southern states of North and South Carolina and helped their families work in farms. In fact, one of the participants continues farming to this day as he shuttles back to his farm in North Carolina once a year. During our classroom discussions about topics such as healthy soils, composting and food preservation, seniors share their experiences about growing up in a rural household. One participant mentioned that when she was a little girl, her mother used to preserve their harvest so they could have these products during the winter when it was cold. A few other seniors will chime in to talk about production practices their families used, such as putting down manure in their fields to enhance soil fertility or the right time to plant certain seeds.

Spring garden at Governor Paterson Towers

CG Growing Strong team with the seniors at Dr. Norman Cotton

Even the seniors who are lifelong urban residents and have never had any interaction with gardening and nature-based activities are very open to learning this new craft and enthusiastically put their hands in the soil. Although a bit shy at first, most of the rookie gardeners have successfully grown vegetables in the spring, summer, and fall. Now that the weather is getting cooler, the seniors are making garden-related crafts such as bird feeders, dried fruit and herb potpourri, and fall suncatchers to bring beautiful aspects of the garden right to their homes. The program has exposed the seniors to many different garden and nature-based activities, but the greatest accomplishment of the garden club has been to gain their ongoing participation and interest.

Making fall suncatchers with CG staff member, Claudia

by Claudia Urdanivia
Claudia is Program Operations Manager at City Green. She loves working with senior citizens and values the knowledge they pass on to the community. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Two Community Gardens Promoting Sustainability and Gardening Education in Passaic County

As the Dig In! program enters its fourth funding cycle, City Green is proud to highlight the successes of two of our garden partners in Passaic County.

Hawthorne Community Garden
The Hawthorne Community Garden was established in 2014 and is now in its second year of operations. Located across the street from Goffle Brook Park in Hawthorne, the garden is home to all types of seasonal vegetables, creatively grown in ways that will maximize production in many of the raised beds.  From beginner gardeners to master gardeners, the Hawthorne Community Garden offers a warm welcome to community members interested in growing their own food and learning more about gardening.

Hawthorne Community Garden - June 2015

Grand Opening 2014

Grand Opening 2015
Garden Frame

Spearheaded by the Hawthorne Green Team, the Hawthorne Community Garden was a perfect fit for the municipality’s sustainability goals of improving the quality of life for residents and promoting environmental education. Rayna Laoisa, Chair of the Hawthorne Environmental Commission and member of the Green Team, says that residents expressed their interest in participating in a community garden at the 2013 Hawthorne Green Fair.  A few months later, Rayna and her team were awarded the Dig In! grant, making it possible to allocate funds for the construction of the community garden. The success of the Hawthorne Community Garden can be attributed to the dedication of the gardeners and the Green Team. Rayna says that “The key is to have to have a good location in your town and a person dedicated to working with the city. You build these relationships over time.” The garden enjoys a strong partnership among many spheres of the Hawthorne community, including the municipality, local businesses and even schools. She adds that the community garden “brings benefits for everyone, for the community, for people in apartments to grow their own food…It’s something really important and people can see it. They can learn about growing food.”

Wayne Community Garden
Located on the grounds of the historical property of the Van Riper Hopper House in Wayne, the Wayne Community Garden overlooks a picturesque historical garden and the surrounding reservoir. The Wayne Community Garden is home to 36 raised bed plots of which 26 are actively gardened and the rest are used for growing food that is donated to the Center for Family Resources in Wayne. The garden also has a compost bin that is historically accurate with the time period of the Museum. Three of the 36 beds are accessible for the elderly and people with disabilities.
Overlooking the Van Riper Hopper House

Children in the Garden Workshop at Wayne Community Garden with Farmer Shaun Ananko

The garden’s co-chairs, Mary Linteris and Erica Evans, are enthusiastic in raising visibility of the garden and providing educational gardening opportunities for the community. Just 2 weeks ago, the Wayne Community Garden hosted an interactive “Children in the Garden” workshop where a total of 31 people attended, including 16 children and 15 adults. The workshop was sponsored through the educational branch of the Dig In! program, which enabled Wayne Community Garden to bring local farmer Shaun Ananko to teach children about vegetable gardening through engaging and hands-on activities, such as planting and harvesting potatoes.
Garden Trellis

Wayne Community Garden

Now in its third year, Mary and Erica say this is the best year yet as the garden looks lush, in part due to the organic soil amendments added at the beginning of the season. Mary says that the importance of having a community garden is that it allows the community to “share experiences and learn about growing their own food.” She adds, “It’s nice to provide a place for people to garden that normally wouldn’t do it.”

by Claudia Urdanivia
Claudia is Program Operations Manager at City Green. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

City Green Salsa Recipe

The summer season is in full swing as weekends are filled with backyard barbecues, trips to the lake, family picnics and many other seasonal occasions. City Green would like to share the recipe for a quick dish that you can serve at your next shindig. Most of the ingredients featured in this recipe can be found at our weekly markets. 

As we mentioned in our previous blog post about heirloom crop varieties, City Green grows many different varieties of tomatoes. The best ones for this recipe include Sungold, Pink Bumblebee, and Black Cherry -  although, any tomato will work great! We hope you enjoy!

City Green Heirloom tomatoes captured by Farmer Todd Gustafson

City Green Salsa
  • 2 cups of City Green tomatoes, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 of a jalapeno, diced
  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • 1 yellow squash, diced
  • 3 scallions, diced
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and black pepper to taste 
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into .5’’ slices

  • In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber, scallions, vinegar, oil, and salt and pepper. 
  • Spoon onto sliced zucchini and serve.

by Zariel Grullon
Zariel is AmeriCorps Program Assistant at City Green. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

City Green Dig In! Program

 City Green Dig In! Program

Passaic County, NJ – May, 2015

City Green is accepting grant applications for its Dig In! program, an initiative seeking to provide local community members with the necessary tools and funding to spearhead the creation of a community garden.  The goal of Dig In! is to expand the number of community gardens in Passaic County by reaching out to members of the community who have the inspiration and drive to build gardens for the people of their own neighborhoods.  The Dig In! program, funded by the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders, has 37 partners who have constructed community gardens with Dig In! funding and support.  Successful applicants who build their own gardens support City Green’s mission of increasing access to healthy food and green, open spaces in the neighborhoods of northern New Jersey.

In addition to up to $2,500 in funding, recipients of City Green’s Dig In! grants will receive technical and educational support including:
·      Group consultation regarding site location
·      Classes in garden planning and management, growing organic foods, and natural pest management
·      Access to City Green’s lending library of tools and native plant nursery
·      Help with procuring tools and materials
·      Two days of labor and garden construction assistance

Dig In! grant recipients are also invited to schedule a City Green garden workshop for their community garden.  Workshops include organic pest management, healthy soil and composting, vegetable gardening, and children in the garden.  Workshops can take place at the community garden site.

Applicants must have a group of five adults committed to garden planning, construction, and maintenance, and the garden must be located in Passaic County.  Applicants are also required to attend at least one information session at the City Green Farm Eco-Center, 171 Grove Street in Clifton. Information sessions will be held on May 19 and June 8 at 6pm.

Applications will also be accepted for improvements to existing gardens.  Second-year applicants can apply for up to $1,000 in funding.

To apply for a Dig In! grant, visit, download the digital application, and return completed forms to the City Greens offices at 171 Grove Street, Clifton, NJ or by email to on or before July 2nd, 2015. All applicants are strongly encouraged to contact Claudia Urdanivia for further information or with any inquiries.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Heirloom Crop Varieties in Your Garden

I was first introduced to the world of seed saving and crop varieties a few years ago as an anthropology graduate student completing fieldwork in the Andean highlands of Peru.
Native/Heirloom Varieties of Potatoes from the Andes (Photo source: CIP)

Upon seeing many varieties of potato and quinoa in the Andes, I became instantly engrossed in learning more from local farmers about crop diversity and heirloom varieties. A key characteristic of heirloom varieties is that farmers select and pass down the seeds through generations. Heirloom varieties offer a wide range of incredible colors, tastes, textures and flavors. In addition, heirloom varieties provide nutritional diversity for families and contribute to food security while simultaneously offering farmers some degree of harvest security or risk management since different varieties can adapt to diverse agroecological environments and are resilient under adverse climatic conditions. Furthermore, farmers may also use traditional knowledge as they conserve the seeds inherited from their families.

Some crop varieties may be good for certain types of recipes while others have medicinal or healing properties. Over the past several decades, there has been a significant decline in crop diversity due to many factors, including a preference for genetically uniform, high-yielding varieties over heirloom varieties.

Heirloom tomatoes

In the US, the most diverse foodshed exists in Appalachia. There is exciting work happening around heirloom crops and seed conservation in the US, especially in the Southern states. New Jersey also boasts some of its own heirloom varieties of crops such as that of the beloved tomato. As May quickly approaches, it will soon be time for backyard, container and community gardeners to plant their summer crops. Heirloom varieties could be a wonderful addition to the garden and provide gardeners with a chance to grow crops that have a long history and tradition. If you don’t have a green thumb but are still interested in tasting some heirloom crop varieties, visit your local farmers’ market and inquire about what is available. The City Green Farms proudly grow 7 heirloom varieties: Moskvich, Valencia, Green Zebra, Cherokee Purple, Striped German, Brandywine and Amish Paste. These heirloom tomatoes will be available during the summer season.

For more information about seed saving and heirloom crops in the US, check out the following sites:

Native Seeds/SEARCH

by Claudia Urdanivia
Claudia Urdanivia is Program Operations Manager at City Green and loves learning about plant and crop biodiversity. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

City Green Senior Garden Club Program and Ribbon Cutting

(Paterson, NJ) – April, 2015

A ribbon cutting will be held on Wednesday, April 29th at 1:30 pm at the Governor Towers Senior Housing Complex in Paterson to celebrate the new garden built by City Green. City Green will be running a “Senior Garden Club”, a three season weekly educational and therapeutic program for senior citizens at Governor Towers this season, in addition to their other Senior Garden Club programs at the Andrew McBride and Norman Cotton Senior Housing Complexes in Paterson.  The program at Governor Towers is available to participants of the Senior Activities Program and Catholic Family and Community Services, and offers them outdoor community-building activities focused on gardening, food, nutrition, and nature. The garden will include a native habitat butterfly garden, two raised garden beds for vegetable production, and a third raised garden bed for herb production.

The Senior Garden Club runs every Friday from 1:30pm to 2:30pm.  The spring club operates from March 27th to June 12th, and includes both indoor and outdoor activities.  The summer club operates from July 10th to August 14th, and is facilitated by City Green’s high school interns through the Growing Strong program, adding a wonderful inter-generational component. It includes garden-to-table workshops where seniors pick fresh vegetables from the garden and learn to prepare healthy meals with fresh produce.  Fall garden club runs from September 4th to November 13th and consists of indoor and outdoor gardening activities.

The Senior Garden Club, part of City Green’s New Ground programming, emphasizes aging in place, horticultural therapy, outdoor recreation, and healthy eating.

Says Jennifer Papa, Executive Director of City Green, “City Green’s mission is about providing fresh produce and environmental education, and making those opportunities available to every member of the community.  Senior citizens play a vital role in our local communities, so we are excited to have them participate in City Green’s mission.” 


City Green, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to facilitating the establishment of urban farms and gardens in northern New Jersey’s cities to create increased access to healthy, local food while cultivating education in food systems, nutrition and the environment.  Contact Jennifer Papa, Executive Director at 973-800-8197 or or visit