The D&R Greenway Land Trust has helped preserve land next to the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen for the future Capital City Farm. The farm will provide a local source of fresh food, along with educational and employment opportunities, for some of the city’s most disadvantaged residents.
A two-acre brownfield on Escher Street in Trenton that is owned by Norma Pratico has been purchased for the project. The Pratico family, –longtime gardeners whose backyard sign read “Weed Now—Eat Later,” is thrilled that the property has found a new use.
“We’re pleased to be a part of this wonderful project,” Sharon Pratico said. “Placement of this community farm in the midst of agencies that serve the people of Trenton who need it most could not be a better fit. This project may serve as a model for other urban areas in New Jersey and beyond.”
The idea for the project began three years ago when a TASK volunteer recognized that the empty lot was full of potential. She alerted the D&R Greenway of the idea because of the land trust’s success in preserving and restoring land for community use, including projects in Trenton’s Cadwalader Park.
“We jumped on the opportunity to preserve the site,” D&R Greenway Vice President Jay Watson said. “We immediately reached out to potential partners, asking if there was interest in joining a preservation effort. The response was overwhelming.”
Mercer County provided the acquisition funds from the county’s open space program.
“Preserving this property and turning it into an urban farm and outdoor learning center will enhance the neighborhood and provide a direct benefit to TASK and other local social service agencies,” Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes said. “We’re happy to be able to assist the City of Trenton and the other project partners in making this happen.”
The plan for the farm is to create a sustainable urban agricultural system that would include a wildflower meadow to attract pollinating insects, raised beds for seasonal produce, and a small orchard of fruit trees in raised containers. Future phases may include hydroponic greenhouses that will enable a year-round growing season and diversify the farm’s crops. The vision includes chicken coops for egg production and beehives to produce local honey.
The City of Trenton will initially own the site on Escher Street near the Helping Arms ex-offender reentry center, the Trenton Treatment Center for substance abuse, and the Escher St. homeless shelter.
“We are very fortunate in Trenton to have so many wonderful nonprofit groups and social service organizations working to improve the quality of life in our great city,” Trenton Mayor Eric E. Jackson said. “This urban farm project is a great compliment to the many social service organizations on Escher Street, and our Administration supports the project wholeheartedly.”
Obtaining fresh food is a challenge for urban residents, and often insurmountable for those with the greatest financial needs. The farm will supply TASK with fresh vegetables.
“TASK is grateful to D&R Greenway for taking the leadership in seeing this very important project through to conclusion,” Executive Director Dennis Micai said. “We have long sought to have this vacant property put to a positive use. We are very excited about having the opportunity to partner with others in turning the property into gardens and an educational site and eventually providing training opportunities.”
On October 22nd, a coalition of community organizations and public agencies planted seeds for the project.
D&R Greenway will implement a remediation plan, installing a 1-foot cap over the fill that was historically deposited to elevate the siding to grade level. All edible plants will be grown in raised beds above the cap, using clean soil. The open space will provide a green respite for clients and employees of the neighborhood social service agencies. It can also be connected to a regional network of pedestrian trails, through potential linkages to D&R Canal State Park and the Assunpink Creek Greenway.