Princeton Alumni Weekly on Allegra Lovejoy and D&R Greenway’s Capital City Farm

Capital City Farm Allegra and Derrick

U.S.1 Cover Story on Allegra and the Farm:  https://capitalcityfarm.org/2017/07/21/us-1-capital-city-goes-jersey-fresh-green/

use this to see splendid pictures of this miraculous farm manager and her loyal crew of helpers, employees and volunteers…    cfe 

 

IN case any of you wonder why I continue to work at this advanced age at a non-profit dedicated to preserving scarce New Jersey land, here is but one reason.  

Years ago, Princeton Alumni Weekly wrote me, after I’d sent in the poem on Catherine’s graduation, “We love your poem, ‘Hands’ and would like to publish it on the first year anniversary of this ceremony.”  They paid me $100 for the poem, plus seemingly unlimited copies of the issue.  When I read from my first book, Gatherings, on the QEII, in the autumn of 1987, ‘Hands’ was the favorite work of that roomful of listeners and purchasers.

Now, Princeton Alumni Weekly superbly evokes the spirit of our wondrous Allegra in her management and inspirational role at D&R Greenway’s Capital City Farm.  Read on…   Marvel.   And support your local land trust!

To Trenton’s postindustrial cityscape comes 2 acres of urban farm…

Some of Allegra Lovejoy ’14’s  fondest childhood memories are of trips to the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket in Brooklyn, N.Y. Twenty years later, Lovejoy finds herself on the other side of the farm stand as the manager at Capital City Farm, an urban farm in Trenton, N.J.

Located less than a mile from the highway (Route 1) in East Trenton — one of the city’s most blighted neighborhoods — Capital City Farm was an overgrown lot before community activists heard about plans to turn it into a junkyard for vehicles. The activists contacted D&R Greenway Land Trust — an organization dedicated to preserving natural areas in New Jersey — which, with other local groups, raised funds to officially preserve the property as an open space. In late 2015, Lovejoy joined D&R as a project fellow and a farm-and-volunteer coordinator to help ready the lot for agriculture and chart its future. The following spring, she was promoted to manager, responsible for transforming the neglected property into a functioning 2-acre farm.

Lovejoy was no stranger to farming, thanks to her foray into community gardening the year before with The Food Project in Boston. That job introduced her to all aspects of farm management and even required her to design and build an irrigation system.

“There are [so] many challenging aspects to farming, including site planning; water engineering; and fertility, pest and disease, and labor management,” Lovejoy says. “I had to learn all of those on the job. It made for a challenging year.”

At Capital City Farm, Lovejoy has made community involvement a priority. She and her staff of two set up shop at farmers markets in Trenton twice a week during the summer and donate about half of the farm’s produce to a nearby food pantry and to the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen. The farm also sells its harvest to local restaurants.

“We’ve chosen to keep the food in the city as a part of our mission,” Lovejoy says. “We’re not here trying to take resources from Trenton. We want to keep it all here.”

“We grow food in solidarity and support of the low-income communities that surround us and are open to any means to get that food into their kitchens.”

— Allegra Lovejoy ’14

After two growing seasons, the former abandoned lot has been completely transformed. In the summer, an acre of wildflowers bursting with zinnias, Queen Anne’s lace, and black-eyed Susans can be seen by passersby on the farm’s south side; a greenhouse brimming with green and red tomatoes alongside the farm’s equipment sits farther back from the street; and rows of radishes, beets, and greens fill out the farm’s other acre.

Lovejoy, a Woodrow Wilson School major, became interested in urban farming while writing a paper on the effects of climate change in Bangladesh.

“It was so striking to learn that globally, there’s a major trend of civil wars being preceded by drought and famines,” Lovejoy said. “I wanted to get firsthand experience of working with people who are doing community-based work with agriculture and reconnecting to the land.”

Lovejoy will be doing just that when she heads east at the end of this year to teach sustainability practices at a farming community and retreat center at the foothills of India’s Sahyadhri Mountains. Afterward, she’ll return to New Jersey to start work as a program coordinator for the state’s Northeast Organic Farming Association.

Lovejoy says that while the Trenton farm relies on nonprofit funding and sales of its harvest to operate, staff sometimes give away produce to poor and homeless people in the area: “We want people to eat,” she says. “We grow food in solidarity and support of the low-income communities that surround us and are open to any means to get that food into their kitchens.” Both members of her staff are Trenton residents; one was raised across the street from the farm lot.

“For people growing up in an entirely man-made environment, developing a connection to nature is no small thing,” she says. “That connection has been very transformative for me, and I’ve seen its impact on others — we set up and manage the farm with that intention.”

US 1 Newspaper on US 1 (Poets) Worksheets — poem “How To” from Newest Issue and Marshwalk

Genesis is a new section of US 1 (Business) Newspaper.  Rich Rein, founding editor, generously asked if he could use my “How To” poem from US 1 Poets’ newest beautiful volume, their strongest ever.  I am greatly honored.  I share this with NJWILDBEAUTY readers, realizing that poetry is nothing if not “wild beauty”!  Thank you, Rich!  Fofllowing this, here in the post, but first in the paper, is my story on hiking the Abbott Marshlands as spring ended and summer trickled in, with Clyde Quin and Warren Liebensperger, my dear friends and ‘Godfathers of the Marsh.’   Enjoy both, Readers, and walk that Marsh – it’s magical.

Reprinted from the Summer 2015 issue of Genesis
Poetry: U.S. 1 Worksheets

How To

people in other lands

know how to be lovers

a man visits Anna Akhmatova

in daytime

demanding

Tell me how you kiss

nothing like this

happens to me

but recently

a man carried two kayaks

one red, one green

one after the other

upon his head

over the arched footbridge

so that we two could explore

evening’s lake

                                                               — Carolyn Foote Edelmann

Heading South from Alexander, 5 to 6:30 on a golden Sunday evening

Recent Kayaking on D&R Canal south of Alexander Road, Princeton

As the first member of the Princeton Community to be accepted through Continuing Ed into Princeton University’s Creative Writing Program in the 1970s, Edelmann studied with Ted Weiss, Galway Kinnell, and Stanley Plumly. She has spent her poetic life honoring their legacy. Her services at D&R Greenway Land Trust are in the broad realm of Community Relations.  Carolyn is an avid kayaker.

Prose and poetry in one issue – a first for me, and a great honor:
Spring Lake, Abbott Marshlands, First Willows

Spring Lake, Abbott Marshlands, First Willows

Reprinted from the June 17, 2015, issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper
In Trenton’s Shadow, A Summer Escape to the Abbott Marshlands
by Carolyn Foote Edelmann

Come with me. Stroll beside tranquil willows, alongside the lilypad lake. Heed red-winged blackbirds’ territorial “okaleeeeee!” on all sides. Be properly impressed by the mute swan male, wings arced in territorial mode, protecting his mate and nestlings hidden on-shore.

Try to remember, we are on the southern edge of the city of Trenton with Hamilton Township to the east and the heavy traffic of the I-295/I-195 interchange just mile or so to the south. We are in the Abbott Marshlands, a 1,200-acre freshwater tidal preserve.

Here tides, pushed by the Delaware River, surge twice each day, bringing new nutrients and fresher water, removing what I tend to think of as “tired water,” carrying it ultimately to the Delaware Bay. We are surrounded by the hush and rich density of one of New Jersey’s most enticing preserves.

On the brink of the opening of summer. we will be seeking spring’s departure, signs of the new season, and anything Clyde Quin and Warren Liebensperger can tell us of the Marsh above which they have lived, and which they have served, all their lives. Clyde and Warren are both retired now (from PSE&G and the GM plant in Ewing respectively) and both are now energetic volunteers with the Friends for the Abbott Marshlands, visiting almost daily to lead field trips, maintain trails, and reporting illegal activity, including turtle poaching and dumping.

We enter the marsh at the Sewell and McClellen Avenue entrance, a 10-minute drive from Route 1 (specific directions can be found easily at the Friends’ website, www.marsh-friends.org). It’s overcast, which turns out to be a blessing, as summer announces its imminent arrival through both heat and impressive humidity this morning. The clouds look especially appealing in Spring Lake, a non-tidal body of water, alongside which we are walking until we’ll cross a tiny footbridge onto “The Island.” The Island is really the deep woods, and holds treasures in all seasons. Have your binoculars ready. The Abbott Marshlands are Rare Bird Central.

Even without optics, Clyde finds the first important bird: Elegant, lustrous, the evening grosbeak poses on a bare branch right over our heads. It turns to right and left, a gilded celebrity, giving us its best side.

Our friendship goes back to the founding of Friends for the Marsh, at nearby Bow Hill Mansion (home of the exquisite mistress of the former king, Joseph Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon). While Clyde and Warren are self-educated amateurs — in the best sense of the word, they are part of a corps of knowledgeable tour leaders who operate year-round: Mary Leck, botanist emeritus of Rider, who’s spent most of her scientific career calling attention to the Marsh and discovering God knows how many new species in its preserved watery acres; her husband Charles, legendary ornithologist of Rutgers; Jenn Rogers, Mercer County naturalist; and Kelly Rypkema, new head of the recently opened Tulpehaking (place of the turtles) Nature Center above the Abbott Marsh. 

Most hikes are free, and all are memorable. There isn’t a plant in that place that Mary doesn’t know. Clyde and Warren are rarely stumped, but a unique delicate pale fern astounds the three of us, lifting golden fronds like wands. “Mary will know,” we say in unison

The lake is to our left, studded with greenery — hefty pointy leaves of spatterdock, that golden pond lily the size and shape of a ping-pong ball. It’ll never get any bigger, never open farther. Two fishermen are out in lake-central, poles catching early light. Trees, thick to our right, are full of urgent birdsong. We are treated to further red-winged blackbird commands to honor each territory. We hear the mellifluous “hello everybody I’m back” of orioles, both Baltimore and orchard, providing glimpses, silhouettes.

Baltimore Oriole in Abbott Marshlands by Brenda Jones

Baltimore Oriole in Abbott Marshlands by Brenda Jones

In the midst of all those fluttery leaves, Warren spots and identifies the tiny, sophisticated blue-grey gnatcatcher. In silhouette, we know this bird by its slender angular tail, long for such a minuscule bird. We have been in the Marsh about 10 minutes.

Clyde informs me that most of trees here, of which orioles and gnatcatchers are particularly fond, are aspens. “Be very quiet,” he suggests. “Even though they are barely moving, you can hear the aspen leaves.” This grove of whispering aspens Clyde and Warren have named Mary’s Cove. Mary being Mary Leck. Trails underfoot, despite the name of this preserve, are dry most of the time. Too dry today, despite two recent downpours.

Clyde and Warren tend nest boxes here, of bluebirds (who fly about their heads like birds in Snow White’s homecoming scene, as the men put up fresh boxes each spring), and Picasso-esque wood ducks. These birds need tree cavities in order to build nests and raise young. In case you haven’t noticed, there aren’t a lot of tree cavities any more. Clyde and Warren put them up, and monitor the young, who leave the nest by jumping down many feet from the boxes, often into water, on their first or second day of life. These men — the Godfathers of the Marsh — put out fires; clean up graffiti; try to repair knife marks in the beautiful new information panels there to educate everyone to the riches of this place.

They immediately recognize new fox denning attempts, the broad “apron” distinguishing fox-work from muskrat-work in the woods. They know where every owl nests, each eagle. They pick up newly chewed beaver twigs, point out just-felled beaver saplings, “the chips still wet.” Clyde’s and Warren’s hands hold the brushes that paint roots white for moonlight beaver walks. They remember when monarchical trees, downed by recent tempest and vandals’ fires, reached the sky.

They have a sixth sense for birds, as well as knowing who prefers what corners and crossroads, what canopy, what part of the understory. We hear varied sounds of hairy, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers, drilling to establish territory. We are treated to shadowy glimpses of certain woodpeckers. One parent feeds his offspring a ravenous youngster a mouthful of insects. American crows mutter and complain, and fish crows cry fervent “Uh, ohs!”

Last night was epochal for the turtle clan. Everywhere we find evidence of very recent digging and egg-laying. Sadly for amphibians, all too many new sanctuaries have been discovered. Even at the sooty place of a former fire, ivory shards — museum quality — of former eggs lie scattered like bones after the raptor’s feast. We know it’s the work of a predator because (1.) it’s far from time for eggs to hatch and (2.) natural hatching is immaculate, no shell remnants to be seen.

As we make our way in deep shade as the day grows hotter, Clyde and Warren marvel at how swiftly recently trimmed trails have been re-invaded by healthy new plants. They’re excited to find the flower “Double Cynthia,” bright orange, and quite rare — new to me. On both sides of the trail, it may be a new colony.

“Here’s spiderwort!,” Warren exclaims. This ineptly named gorgeous purple bloom rises on iris-like tendrils. It’s on both sides, spilling all the way down to the water. The men decide this new array of that shy yet vivid plant could have been caused by flooding.

They recount the sad saga of ineradicable Japanese knotweed, despite heroic efforts by Trenton High School students. We puzzle over inexplicably vanished wetlands, formerly famous for frogs.

The best part about being with Warren and Clyde is that they speak the past. It springs to life, their eyes alight. They are boys again, “using cane poles, pulling in fish, sometimes snagging turtles we have to release.”

Of course, long before Warren and Clyde there were Indians here, especially Lenni Lenapes, convening between hunting and gathering seasons, spring and fall migrations. Beginning in their boyhood days these two men have found artifacts, donating them to a local museum. I guess they sensed Indian presence as did Thoreau.

Clyde and Warren lament sounds no longer heard: whippoorwill, bob-white, wild pheasant, clapper rail, black rail, American Bittern. They enriched my knowledge with locals’ names for every twist in these trails, maintained by the two of them weekly if not daily, year-’round.

A handful of days before summer, ferns are at peak. No more fiddleheads, just enormous clumps, catching the light, back into the deep woods. Some of these ferns are taller than we are, but the men tell me ferns used to be 15-feet tall.

We chronicle the departure of spring in spent false Solomon’s seal; the seed pods of vanished trout lily blooms. Clyde hands me a Mayapple, oval and Granny Apple Green. “Box turtles eat ‘em,” he lets me know. “I’ve eaten them. Have a kind of mothy taste.” To me, they smell like green beans.

They take turns reciting the old names: Devil’s Bend; Second Sandy; Cobra, Rooster Tail, The Catwalk, The Springs, Snapper Pond, and Mary’s Cove. The last line of Death of a Salesman comes to me here, “Attention must be paid!” Who will chant these titles, a decade or two from now?

Who else can tell of the dredging of the lake, how “they took out all the muck, dragged it, used mules. Then they put in clean sand… waited for springs and rains to do their work.” “At first, this was just a strolling park. Then people came along and added the amusement park and the chute-the-chutes with the wooden boats.”

We sit on a lakeside bench, so Clyde and Warren may continue to reminisce. I tell them, “There is no one with whom I would rather walk the Marsh.”

They give me exquisite responses, laced with almost breathless gratitude that the wild and the beautiful have been and are being continually preserved, in the heart of New Jersey’s capital region.

Carolyn Edelmann works in community relations for the D&R Greenway Land Trust and takes advantage of every opportunity to hike and kayak through New Jersey’s natural resources.

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