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.”

INESCAPABLE AUTUMN…

Box Turtle of Autumn at Cedar Ridge

Box Turtle of Autumn at Cedar Ridge

I’ve always loved autumn, for its hues and fragrances.  And the light — the only time New Jersey light approaches that which bathed me in my year (and other visits) in Provence, is when September unfurls.

However, this year, I’m not ready for it.

What with nights in the 60’s most of the summer, and a very challenging job at D&R Greenway Land Trust, with few vacation days, I am one of those inclined to blurt, “WHAT summer?”

So I wasn’t thrilled to waken to 40-some degrees on my front-door (Lawrenceville, NJ) thermometer this Sunday.

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know I’m always on nature quests, early and late, any season – you NAME it –, even in the middle of the week – scheduling every scarce day off for a jaunt to NJ’s WILD BEAUTY.

Even today, I’ve marinated ruby-rich tomatoes from Salem and Cumberland (assorted) farmstands.  I’ve cooked my very first fresh sage-green limas from the pod, from Lillian’s fruits and vegetables next to the Mauricetown Diner on Buckshutem Road south of Millville.  I’ve cut hand-sized peppers of red, green and variegated, into bite sizes for friends who are coming shortly for the last swim of the season.  First we eat, then we swim, not like childhood.  O, yes, and there’s merry berry pie from the hillside farm market in Lamberville (across the road from Rago and all that art…)

But out there, on the trails, after our swim this eveing, autumn awaits us.  It’s not only a number on a plexiglas thermometer.

It’s assorted swirls of scarlet and crimson, twining up tree trunks near the red barn of the Pole Farm — announcing that autumn’s bounty is ready for the birds, in the form of woodbine and, yes, poison ivy berries.  Poison ivy in particular really nourishes migrants on their interminable (often night-time) flights to other continents.

It’s buzzing and whirring and tingling of insects, getting their last songs in before frost.

It’s spiciness and fruitiness all along that entry trail.  Spiciness as though it were Thanksgiving or Christmas, in the kitchen, nutmeg, and clove and other more exotic almost puncturing fragrances.  Fruitiness among the varied vines so intense that it can knock me off my stride, and even feel intoxicating.

It’s meadows awash in brassy tones of tick-seed sunflower, leftover brown-eyed Susans, and first goldenrod, heavy on its stems.

Autumn, the poets insist, is that season “of mists and mellow fruitfulness”  The latter is present along Pole Farm’s sunny trails.  The mists I’ve, so far, only encountered once.  I wonder what the function of mist is, to Mother Nature.  For me, it’s enclosure, it’s wrapping, it’s transformation, and it hides any traces of hideous technology, such as some brutes are now attaching to poles along Cold Soil Road.  Through the mists, I can see and sometimes hear the dark sheep.  I do not see or hear the cattle lowing, but know they are near, off to the right, as I drive through morning fog, ground fog, to save New Jersey Land at D&R Greenway.

Cedar Ridge off Van Dyke Road in Hopewell Welcomes Visitors in Autumn

Cedar Ridge off Van Dyke Road in Hopewell Welcomes Visitors in Autumn

Autumn is the end of the plants in my tiny new garden.  I’m down to three nasturtiums and four white petunias and one geranium  — blooms, not plants.  The basil has come and nearly gone, although its final leaves adorn those Salem and Cumberland Tomatoes from the stand where you put your money in a locked tin container and drive away without having spoken to anyone.

Autumn used to be school, which I loved, oddly enough.

Frankly, I don’t know what autumn is any more.

I think the trails, in Island Beach on Tuesday, and at Pole Farm any day, hold my answers.

 

I’ll keep you posted.

 

Smiles, and SAVE THIS PLANET! in all seasons

 

Mushrooms of Autumn near Iconic Oak, Cedar Ridge Preserve

Mushrooms of Autumn near Iconic Oak, Cedar Ridge Preserve

 

Carolyn