Act One: “Think Globally, Act Locally.” , 2007-8
When a small group of local community members grew concerned about the type of planet that we, as humans, were leaving to future generations, they took this old bumper sticker adage to heart. Â Realizing that solving tough community problems such as sustainability would require the formation of strategic and creative alliances, this group of pioneers approached the township of Cherry Hill with the goal of working collaboratively to address these complex issues.Â A unique and somewhat surprising partnership was created at a time when few local governments were addressing issues of sustainability beyond the traditional conservation of open space, regulation of water quality and tree planting.Â For a year, this team worked diligently and regularly to educate themselves about the steps that a local government could take to move a whole community towards sustainability.Â The resulting “10 Point Green Action Plan” passed unanimously in March 2008 by Cherry Hill Town Council and has been fully supported by Mayor Bernie Platt.
Act Two: Starting a Movement, 2008-9
In their research, the team discovered the importance of engaging, not just local government, but the rest of the community.Â A key component of the plan was the formation of a community education and outreach group, Sustainable Cherry Hill (SCH).Â Â Awarded its independent 501c3 non-profit status in 2008, SCH began the process of developing its mission, goals and organizational structure.Â Amid much media attention and community “buzz”, SCH held its first all-Cherry Hill official kick off meeting to a packed room at the Cherry Hill Library. A whirlwind year of activity followed that included monthly community educational programs, development ofÂ a local Green Drinks branch for social and professional networking “One Green Night a Month”, continued collaboration with Cherry Hill Township on their 10-Point Green Action Plan, the first ever Cherry Hill Earth Day Festival and much more.
Act Three: Taking it to the Next Level, 2009-11
AÂ high point of SCH’s development came in the form of a community visioning conference in summer 2009, “Cherry Hill 2020:Â Shaping a Sustainable Future”.Â On July 16-18, 2009, 90 people representing a microcosm of the Cherry Hill community joined together for thoughtful and hard work taking place for 16 hours over three days. Their mission was to define a shared vision for sustainability for Cherry Hill over the next 10 years..Â Sustainable Cherry Hill hosted the event, which was by invitation only and of no cost to participants. Participants ranged from teens to seniors and represented businesses, faith groups, education, community groups, government and environmentalists. Everyone came to the conference with their own unique set of talents, backgrounds and opinions, but were united in their desire to foster and improve the community. Professional facilitators, trained in the research based “Future Search” method spent hours working with participants in small and large groups to reach the final day of agenda setting. Task forces were created to move the vision forward with the goal of engaging others inÂ the community to join in and expand the reach of these initiatives beyond conference attendees.
The unique, collaborative relationship between SCH and Cherry Hill Township resulted in our community becoming a Sustainable Jersey Certified Community (one of only 30 in the state) in November of 2009. Sustainable Jersey â„˘ is a certification program for municipalities in New Jersey that want to go green, save money, and take steps to sustain their quality of life over the long term. The “Green Team”, made up of township staff and community members continue to meet regularly and received the newest “Silver” level Â of certification in November of 2011.
Act Four:Â Collaboration and Partnerships, 2011-13
Sustainable Cherry Hill continues to operate in a positive, collaborative manner, supporting the sustainability efforts of neighboring communities, Cherry Hill Township, Camden County, the Cherry Hill School District and the region.Â Our community led Task Forces continue to thrive in areas such as alternative transportation, gardening, building/business, health, regional partnerships.Â Now in our 7th year as a non-profit organization, it is estimated that we have reached almost 20,000 people through our Art Blooms Earth Festival, educational programs, outreach and networking events and have mentored dozens of other towns in South Jersey.
These days, we could all use a little inspiration. Â OurÂ Agent for ChangeÂ series features 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’re revisiting Haddon Township resident Gwenne Baile, who successfully championed for an ordinance allowing hens to be raised in residential backyards. Gwenne is an active member of our SCH Garden Task Force, Haddon Township community garden, GMO Free NJ and Camden County Chickens.
SCH: Tell us about life with your hens.
Gwenne: With early dawns at this time of year, they usually are in their predator-proof run around 6. In anticipation of that, the previous evening after they have gone in the coop for the night, I put out something for their breakfast. They only get organic pellets and treats. That way, they will be a bit quieter, for my neighborsâ€™ sakes, in the morning. The run is so predator-proof that nothing can get into the run to get the food. A couple hours later, I go out to do my daily maintenance of the coop and run which really only takes about 15 minutes. The girls, Marigold, Iris, Haddy and Rosebud follow me to my garden with the enticement of some bread and â€śworkâ€ť in their turning the soil, scratching and looking for insects while I rake out the run, change their water and put a block of ice in it to keep it cold. All the droppings go into my composters. I clean the chicken droppings out from the coop as well. The best thing is the last thing and that is to collect eggs. Nothing is better than getting a warm egg out of the nest box. I generally get two eggs in the morning and one in the afternoon although the hot weather does decrease the number of eggs sometimes. They have to spend more energy staying cool so canâ€™t put it into making eggs. I let them play and workÂ in the fenced in garden for a while and then let them and the dog free-range in the yard for a bit often enjoying my coffee watching their antics. I am teaching Haddy (named after Haddon Twp.) to do agility training although, so far, we have only been weaving through some stakes I put into the ground. She is the smartest hen and most adventurous. They rest follow her around as if they know she will show them a new spot. Mid-afternoon, I generally give them more cool, fresh water and a piece of watermelon which they love. They get their dinner of pellets and veggies around 5 and they put themselves to bed by 8.
SCH: How has this ordinance approval impacted your community?
Gwenne: As of now, we have 22 families with licenses to be in the pilot. We have not had any complaints made to the township nor to the Mayor and Commissioners. I have been told that people have commented on why there was so much dissension over this last year since the hens havenâ€™t been an issue. We have participated in two town events having hensÂ with us and I will be at our farmersâ€™ market when the weather isnâ€™t so hot just for education and fun. We have a wonderful, active group of pilot participants. We meet every other month and always have some continuing education at our meeting. We will be having a picnic soon for the group and everyone is encouraged to make something to bring and share that contains eggs from their hens. I have had both nursery school children come and visit the girls as well as two second grade classes from the local school. Other members of the pilot have done the same. I have given eggs to neighbors and others. I feel it has been great for the community and our governing body has received recognition for being progressive. We have continued to remain in the media and will have a story and photos in South Jersey magazine shortly. It all has really helped the backyard chicken movement grow.
SCH: Where else in Camden County are we likely to see similar ordinances? Howâ€™s the progress on approvals?
Gwenne: Actually, tonight Oaklyn will have its first reading of an ordinance change and next week, it will be official. I was thrilled to be named to their task force which includes the Mayor, President of Council, and 3 residents that have hens. I will remain on their Backyard Chicken Advisory Board. It is so rewarding to see this happen and to have played a big part in actually writing the ordinance. The same thing is happening in Merchantville and they will get a pilot program in September. I was also appointed by their Mayor and worked with two council people and two residents to tweak the Haddon Twp. pilot. I helped get the movement started in Gloucester Twp. which just enacted a pilot. I have been working with the new leader of the movement in Cherry Hill and we attended a caucus and regular meeting and had a private meeting with the Mayor and his Chief of Staff. We spent over an hour with them and provided them with a lot of valuable information. We are waiting to hear from them. We certainly hope since the townâ€™s sustainability report was issued recently, that they agree the backyard chickens are part of that and part of the local food movement and will allow a pilot program. I personally doubt that an ordinance change will happen but am optimistic about a pilot. Other towns in the tri-county area that are looking into it and that I am mentoring include Haddon Heights, Palmyra, Delran, Tabernacle, Lumberton, Medford Lakes, Maple Shade, Monroe Township and Pitman. There are many other towns where residents want to have chickens but it is difficult to get someone to step up and lead the charge. It does take lots of time, patience, perseverance and compromise. Nothing hurts me more than to hear from someone that they really want chickens but they canâ€™t because it isnâ€™t allowed. Then do something to make it be allowed!
Gwenne: I knew that summer is harder on hens in this area than winters but it has been worse than I expected. My small coop is like an oven and I have to constantly be concerned with the temperature and humidity. I am using a mister when it is appropriate. I thought we would have more shade than we do. I now have taken about 50 hours of classes on raising chickens. I recently completed a course via webinar on Summer Care and learned that at 93 degrees with the relative humidity of 50%, chickens can only get rid of 50% of their body heat and it gets worse as either the temperature or humidity increases. Since I only have 4 and have a very large kitchen, it was recommended to bring them in during the heat of the day when those conditions are met. Otherwise, they can actually get heatstroke and die!Â I have also completed a Therapy Chicken course and Rosebud is my therapy chicken. We are looking forward to visiting some extended care and assisted living facilities. This is so important because it demonstrates that they are pets and not dirty farm animals. Backyard hens carry no more disease than a dog. Rosie loves people and loves being petted and held. They have been found to be wonderful for autistic children, people with Alzheimerâ€™s and dementia as well as depression. All over the UK, there are programs using hens and many facilities have actually started coops to give residents the opportunity to interact with the chickens on a regular basis. That is right up my alley! As a retired nurse midwife and educator who loves interacting with people, I am so excited about this possibility and ask that if anyone would like us to visit a school or a facility, to please contact me.
SCH: What would you like to see happen next?
Gwenne: I truly believe in my heart that if someone wants a couple of hens, they should be legally able to have themâ€”end of story. The ridiculous outdated ordinances either banning or severely restricting hens to huge properties, essentially farms even if you want three chickens, need to be updated. I see myself continuing the fight. I attend council meetings when I can (why do they always meet on Mondays or Tuesdays!) to answer questions and support the local residents. I feel that the more towns that come on board, the better. It will serve to motivate other neighboring towns. I want to educate, educate, educate and correct myths and misconceptions. I feel residents should run their own pilots and programs because it not only saves the town money since the town enforcer doesnâ€™t have to do it but it involves the community more and the more involved, the more successful the program will be. I continue to speak to groups and have two presentations scheduled at this time. I will be teaching the formal class that Camden County Chickens provides. Most of the ordinances and pilot program have followed my lead and require an approved class to get a license. I feel a class must be mandatory for the sake of our hens as well as our towns. I still love tabling and getting out there meeting and talking with residents.
I seeÂ how this movement meshes with all the sustainability and gardening groups that I belong to or are on the board. Whatâ€™s better than local, sustainable food and knowing what is in that food! I truly love being called â€śThe Chicken Lady of South Jerseyâ€ť.
Sustainable Cherry Hill welcomes the year-round support of:
Platinum Sustaining Sponsor LourdesCare at Cherry Hill
Gold Sustaining Sponsor Ravitz Family Markets
We thank our Sustaining Sponsors for their long-term support in educating and informing the South Jersey community about sustainability issues and events.
Lourdes Care at Cherry Hill is a Platinum Sustaining Sponsor of Sustainable Cherry Hill! Check outÂ their servicesÂ and how they support our community.
Ravitz Family Markets is a Gold Sustaining Sponsor ofÂ Sustainable Cherry Hill! Find more information on their great offeringsÂ here.
Â Â Â Â South Jersey Green Drinks
Our next Green Drinks is
Wednesday, November 2nd, 6pm – 8pm
The Berlin Brewing Company
220 SouthÂ White Horse Pike, Berlin NJ, 08002
Light appetizers will be provided by Sustainable Cherry Hill and drinks are available for purchase.
Meet up with old friends and make new ones this month!
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: