Sustainable Cherry Hill (SCH) is an all volunteer 501c3 non-profit community outreach and educational organization that fosters the global sustainability movement at a local level.Â Creating resources that facilitate this shift in lifestyle, while connecting people in the community for and around our mission, lays a foundation for making the necessary change to a sustainable way of life- one less geared to environmentally damaging and socially inequitable consumption patterns, and one that works in harmony with the planet, its resources and their limits.
“Bringing people together to build a sustainable South Jersey.”
SCH strives to continuously tap Cherry Hill and the surrounding region’s greatest resource- its people- in order to shift to a sustainable way of life. We do this through hosting educational events, networking opportunities, supporting community based task forces and acting as a general clearing house of information on sustainability news and events. We provide a structure for people at all levels to work together to pursue their passions and use their unique skills and networks in the service of a more sustainable community.
SCH is essentially a community group in that our approach to sustainability recognizes that everyone making small changes results in big differences collectively. As such, it is critical that we establish and nurture relationships with all area stakeholders, including government, schools, businesses, faith groups, other community groups and individuals from all over South Jersey. But grassroots cannot do it alone. Â Large scale change requires leadership by governments and corporations. Â An educated and empowered populace can put pressure on these entities from the ground up.
Small scale food production through sustainable gardens
Welcome to our June Agent for Change feature.Â The purpose of this blog series is to bring a little inspiration into our lives. Each month we feature an interview with everyday people creating big changes in their little corner of the world. The goal of these stories is to spark a passion, help you set a goal, or move past some frustration as you work to be anÂ Agent for ChangeÂ in your own system.
This month we feature Jamie Warner of The Great Full Garden. To impact a thriving, healthy planet, Jamie is using her passion for sustainable gardening and small scale food production to help people learn to start and care for their own “green” gardens, with design, installation, and organic heirloom plants.
SCH: What is a typical day as an â€śAgent for Change” like for you?
Jamie: A typical day includes me waking up at 3:00 am to do a daily check on all the plants and garden. I check them for water needs, indications of pests or nutrient deficiencies and whether any need to be repotted. As it gets light out Iâ€™ll move outdoors to plant or weed, depending on the time of year, cut herbs and begin the process of preserving them. I spend a lot of time just watching the garden. Observing whatâ€™s growing and even whatâ€™s not. I work on The Great Full Garden until about 7:00am and then head to my day job at The Bayshore Center where I work in program development, marketing, and membership. I work there to bolster the regionâ€™s image as a tourist destination and am involved with efforts to help small businesses and entrepreneurs. I get home around 5:30 and am committed to spending the evening hours with my husband and three young children. Sometimes after the kids go to bed Iâ€™ll work on The Great Full Garden some more, but mostly I Just try to get a good nightâ€™s sleep since I wake up so early.
SCH: How did you get involved with The Great Full Garden?
Jamie: The idea for The Great Full Garden is one that has been brewing for a long time. When I was a kid I would design gardens around fictional houses. My dream houses were never about the house, always about the garden surrounding the house. I should say that at some point when I was a kid I heard a statistic that in 25 years the world would be drastically changed due to what was then called â€śglobal warming.â€ť I was anxiously fascinated with how individuals could disregard their impact on the environment. As a young adult I went to see an influential speaker, who I asked in the question and answer session, what he thought the number one thing people could do to offset “global warming” and he said, â€śGrow their own food.â€ť This stuck with me as I had already designed a hundred gardens for my to-be house complete with mini-orchards and berry patches.
When my husband and I bought our house I started a huge garden and one day, working in it, I was marvelling at all we had done and I realized I had built a great, full garden. I was grateful for my great, full garden and loved the play on words.Â For a while it was just the name of my own garden. But as I became more concerned with the movement for local food, and as I saw a market for local food and the popularity of community gardens, I knew that this is where I was supposed to be making my impact in the world. Thereâ€™s so many personal stories and experiences that have shaped my passion for healthy, local food. Ultimately, when deciding how I wanted to contribute to my family financially, I felt like I needed to do the one thing that I always wanted to do. Design gardens, build them and introduce people to the joy of growing their own food.
SCH: What are some of the biggest challenges or barriers that you’ve faced? How have you dealt with them?
Jamie: Material challenges have included not having a large vehicle, finding sustainable ways to mass produce plants (because big AG is pretty scary right now) and trying to grow my business without loans or traditional funding.
Lastly, a big challenge has been space constraints. With â…“ acre, mass producing plants is definitely within the realm of possibility, but Iâ€™ve had to be creative with how we use our space because thereâ€™s a lot going on. Vermicomposting, storing food for the off season, drying herbs, starting seeds, the garden itself. I start plants for my garden, plants for sale and I put out A LOT of plants for community gardens and nonprofit plant sales. I want to be be able to do all of that in this very limited space!!
SCH: Dream Big! If you had no constraints, what would you like to see happen in five years?
Jamie: Dreaming big…my ultimate vision is a network of community gardens which barter food, equipment and services between communities and sell produce in community stores to fund improvements to the gardens and educational programs. I see these gardens providing a vast amount of food and medicine for people all over South Jersey and especially in Cumberland County. As the idea of local, fresh food grows I hope to establish community kitchens, where the produce, eggs and honey produced in community gardens provide a healthy, affordable option for families on the go. The money earned in the community supported kitchens would go right back into the garden programs. Programs would be dictated by the expressed needs of the community and would include programs for educational and economic development in the region. Because the gardens would rely on a bunch of people with different skills I could see The Great Full Garden becoming an employer in the region. People with marketing skills, laborers, festival and market vendors, communications coordinators…it will be a huge community project using people from the community to build local wealth.
SCH: It’s important an Agent for Change stay inspired too. Tell us about an experience you’ve had recently that really energized or moved you.
Jamie: Itâ€™s hard for me to say one thing that has inspired me. I am in a constant state of inspiration. Itâ€™s overwhelming at times. I really have had to learn how to reign in my imagination. Sometimes being inspired by everything means you burn out before youâ€™ve done anything that really has any impact. I donâ€™t want that to be the case.
Just this morning I was inspired, simply, by my garden. The columbine and comfrey are blooming, the herbs have all come back to life after winter and there are birds, toads and snakes all enjoying the diverse bounty of the garden. It is so simple and so real. It comes from this intense labor of love. I have birthed this garden like Iâ€™ve birthed my children. I know every piece of it – every stone in the walkways, every errant evening primrose. It is a visual testament to the love that I have for the land around me and the love I wish to plant all over my little corner of the Earth.
SCH: How have you connected with SCH in your Agent for Change role? What ideas do you have about how we might work together in the future?
Jamie: For the past two years I have participated as a vendor at Food Day hosted by the Green Health Task Force. But, because there is only one of me, itâ€™s hard for me to commit to doing more. My plate is truly full! However, one way I’d like to work with SCH is to do workshops and lectures on growing food. Food in small spaces, preserving food, growing food throughout the year, recognizing edible weeds, growing native edibles, making all-natural, effective compost and fertilizers. There are so many topics to speak on…and so many ways for participants to really try their hands at different projects, to get a taste of microgreens before buying the supplies. To see a vermicomposting set up. To learn about the best native, edible plants. I also love doing workshops with kids and am willing to donate plants to any sustainable, community gardens being built.
For more information visit The Great Full Garden
July 20, 2016
7:00 pm at Inkwood Books
31 Kings Highway East, Haddonfield, NJ
(free on street parking after 6pm)
Do you know someone with auto-immune disease?
Ever wonder why so many Americans suffer from
Celiac, Crohnâ€™s and Colitis?
eat dirt explores how modern improvements to our food supply have damaged our intestinal health.Â
Hosted by Sustainable Cherry Hill’s Green Health Task Force
Thanks to a $2,000 Sustainable Jersey for Schools grant funded by the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), the Horace Mann Elementary School community recently completed their teaching farm.Â The farm, made up of plum trees, apple trees, juneberry trees, strawberry and raspberry bushes and wild flowers, will be used to engage students in hands on learning about how food grows and sustainable farming.
The teaching farm is the result of a lot of planning and collaboration.Â Last summer, teachers Justin Meyers, Kristina Murphy and Ana Delgado joined Principal Shilpa DavĂ©Â to work on the placement, design and budget for the project. The schoolâ€™s Green Team and Grant Writing Committee researched and wrote the grant. Eric Blasco and Dave Siller, local farmers from ErBÂ Food & Garden visited the school to teach students about the importance of knowing where their food comes from. Even the Horace Mann PTA pitched in, creating an online watering schedule to keep the farm healthy throughout the year.
Although the teaching farm is brand new, the project is already grabbing the attention of the students at Mann. â€śThe biggest surprise was how much ownership the students took in planting the trees and the bushes,â€ť stated Mann teacher Katie Collins.Â â€śThey were interested and actively engaged in wanting to plant them properly so that the teaching farm could be a success.â€ť
Check back here for updates as the Mann teaching garden grows!
An evening with Stephen Ritz – Award winning educator and vertical farmer
Much like a seedling that sprouts into a fully blossoming plant, so did the audience who showed up in record numbers to hear award winning educator and urban farmer Stephen Ritz from Green Bronx Machine on Thursday, May 26th. Just a handful of attendees were present when the Marian House of Cherry Hill opened its doors at 6:00 pm. By 6:45 the hall was filled with nearly 200 eager adults and children of diverse backgrounds, waiting patiently for the much anticipated and very animated guest speaker.
Donning a big yellow foam cowboy hat and bowtie made of recycled objects, Stephen Ritz delivered an awe inspiring and engaging presentation, sharing how his use of vertical gardens in the classroom has transformed the lives of his South Bronx students, academically; emotionally, and physically.
Circling the room throughout his presentation, Ritz explained how the South Bronx, the poorest congressional district in the country, has no access to healthy, affordable food. Imagine no nearby Shop Rite, no Whole Foods, not even an Aldiâ€™s! Just mini food marts and plenty of 99 cent fast food, fried food establishments. Couple that with the stinky, dirty odor of a sewage waste plant, a sewage pelletizing plant and four electrical plants (South Bronx is home to 40% of New York Cityâ€™s waste and 100% of the Bronxâ€™s waste) and you have an unhealthy living environment.
Proclaiming, “I am a voice for the voiceless. All lives matter,â€ť Ritz said 37% of students in South Bronx have food insecurity and 51% of South Bronx children live in poverty. His students were overweight and unhealthy, school performance was well below average and the high school graduation rate was under 50%. All this changed when Ritz introduced vertical gardening, which provides experiential learning for students in science, math, health and nutrition. Vertical gardens and the Tower Gardens later brought in, provide students an abundance of healthy food. Portions of the food grown are used in the cafeteria for meals. Students are eating better and waistlines have decreased including Ritzâ€™s who says heâ€™s lost about 100 pounds since introducing the vertical gardens.
Ritz encouraged the audience to, “Occupy Your Street!” saying his fundamental belief is you shouldn’t have to leave your neighborhood, to learn, earn, and live. The students set up a local farmerâ€™s market, transformed dank, dirty vacant lots into green parcels of land. His students now build green gardens, green roofs, green anything for wealthy residents of the Hamptons, and earn a living wage for their work.
What started out in one classroom has now grown into the Green Bronx Machine, a non profit organization and movement occupying a former library at Community School 55 in the South Bronx. Ritz has even traveled to Canada, Columbia, and states around the USA to help set up similar wellness learning centers like GBM. It is no wonder why Ritz is a top ten finalist for the Global Teacher Award.
Ritz received a standing ovation at the program’s conclusion and with rock star like fame, guests lined up afterwards to have their picture taken with Stephen Ritz and to get his signed autograph on a GBM hat or handout. It was evident from the outpouring of enthusiasm for Ritz, â€śGreen walls can change minds and attitudes.â€ť
Hosted by Sustainable Cherry Hill’s Green Health and Garden Task Forces and sponsored by:
Looking for some family fun afterÂ
Memorial Day Week-End?
Join us for SJ Green Drinks at The Big Event!
Wednesday, June 1, 2016