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 http://www.nativeseeds.org/

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 info@city-green.org. or visit www.citygreenonline.org.

Monday, April 6, 2015

City Green receives funding as subgrantee through USDA's FINI Grant Program

For Immediate Release
City Green to receive $110,963 over three years through USDA’s Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Grant Program as part of Wholesome Wave’s $3.77 Million Grant

(Clifton, NJ) Today, City Green celebrates USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s announcement of $31.5 million granted through the Food Insecurity Nutrition Program (FINI). National nonprofit Wholesome Wave received a $3.77 million FINI grant, of which City Green, as a subgrantee, will receive $110,963 through this award, which will be used to support increased access to fruits and vegetables for the food insecure of Northern New Jersey, while also benefiting small and mid-sized farmers in the region.

“We are delighted to have gained the support of the USDA through this new Food Insecurity Nutrition Program,” says Jennifer Papa, Founder and Executive Director of City Green. “This funding furthers our mission of creating increased access to, and affordability of, local farm fresh produce. We look forward to using the funds to make this healthy food available to all families in the areas where we work, no matter their income level.”

Since its founding in 2004, City Green has been committed to addressing the needs of food insecurity in urban New Jersey. The grant issued to City Green will increase affordable access to fresh fruits and vegetables for SNAP consumers in Paterson, Passaic, Clifton, Newark, Morristown, and Montclair, while also supporting local agriculture.

“With this support we will continue to develop our relationships with different market managers at farmer’s markets across New Jersey, extending our reach and bringing increased food access along with us,” says Jasmine Moreano, City Green’s Director of Community Engagement.

City Green received this award as a subgrantee on a larger $3.77 million grant, which the nonprofit, Wholesome Wave, obtained from the USDA to support their national network of nutrition incentive partners. City Green is one of 32 community-based organizations that will join Wholesome Wave in this Large-Scale FINI Project. Wholesome Wave’s network is a robust community of innovation and learning, linking incentive programs through uniform data collection and evaluation to support the expansion and adoption of incentives through policy. Wholesome Wave’s project is one of many that received support as part of the total $31.5 million granted by USDA in this cycle.

With the award from Wholesome Wave, City Green will implement incentive programs at 14 farmers’ markets, calling this new effort to bring the Double Value Coupon Program statewide the “Garden State Good Food Program”.

“We are thrilled to be working with such a diverse and competent group of incentive operators across the nation. This network brings together organizations ranging from a flourishing farmers market group to a large scale nonprofit, capitalizing on the grassroots expertise of community leaders, while also building regional and national impact that allows us to enact the kind of large-scale policy change we see in legislation like FINI,” says Wholesome Wave founder and CEO, Michel Nischan.


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 jpapa@city-green.org. Or visit www.citygreenonline.org for further information.

Wholesome Wave is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that strives to create a vibrant, just and sustainable food system. By making fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables affordable and available, we enable underserved consumers to make healthier food choices. Our innovative initiatives are improving health outcomes among low-income families, generating additional revenue for small and mid-sized farm businesses and bolstering local and regional economies. Our initiatives are implemented nationwide in collaboration with community-based partners at farmers markets, community health centers, hospital systems, food hubs, and retail outlets. Each year, our initiatives reach more than 50,000 underserved consumers and their families, as well as thousands of farmers. To learn more about Wholesome Wave visit www.wholesomewave.org or call 203-226-1112.