Our Story

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.   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.  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.  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.  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.  A key component of the plan was the formation of a community education and outreach group, Sustainable Cherry Hill (SCH).   Awarded its independent 501c3 non-profit status in 2008, SCH began the process of developing its mission, goals and organizational structure.  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 of  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

A  high point of SCH’s development came in the form of a community visioning conference in summer 2009, “Cherry Hill 2020:  Shaping a Sustainable Future”.  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..  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 in the community to join in and expand the reach of these initiatives beyond conference attendees.

sj logoThe 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 ™ 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  of certification in November of 2011.

Act Four:  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.  Our community led Task Forces continue to thrive in areas such as alternative transportation, gardening, building/business, health, regional partnerships.  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.

Feast in the Fields

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Feast in the Fields

Saturday, September 17, 2016

4:00 pm – 7:00 pm

1895 Organic Farm

303 Landing Road, Lumberton, NJ

$60 per person – BYOB

Feast in the field of 1895 Organic Farm with the talent of Chef Fred Kellerman of Elements Café offering a four-course, organic and locally-grown sunset dinner.  

Help strengthen and grow public awareness of the work of local farmers while enjoying an amazing meal! 

Enjoy the bounties of 1895 Organic Farm, mushrooms from Davidson Farm, chicken from Griggstown, Princeton, cheese from Valley Shepherd Creamery, Long Valley and oysters from Cape May.

View the Menu

Door Prize     Seating is Limited   –   Register by 9/14/16

(Your PayPal payment is your registration.)

Please note: You must indicate vegetarian option in the special request field. Rain date is Sunday, September 18, 2016. Minimum number of attendees is required. 

Reserve Your Seat:

Special Requests


August 10, 2016   Posted in: Events, Uncategorized  No Comments

South Jersey Green Drinks

greendrinks.delaware.valley_weblogo2WEDNESDAY, September 7, 2016

6pm – 8pm

Cooper House Restaurant

5300 N. Park Dr, Pennsauken, NJ 

Get Directions Here

Our monthly networking event returns! Make new friends and mingle with old ones at our inaugural Green Drinks of the fall season. We’ll enjoy the beautiful views of Cooper River and Philadelphia while enjoying yummy food and beverages for purchase.

August 15, 2016   Posted in: Events  No Comments

Mann Elementary School Collaborates on Teaching Farm

Mann Students Work with Local Farmers

Mann Students Work with Local Farmers

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.  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.  Last summer, teachers Justin Meyers, Kristina Murphy and Ana Delgado joined Principal Shilpa Davé to work on the placement, design and budget for the project. The school’s Green Team and Grant Writing Committee researched and wrote the grant. Eric Blasco and Dave Siller, local farmers from ErB 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. “The biggest surprise was how much ownership the students took in planting the trees and the bushes,” stated Mann teacher Katie Collins. “They were interested and actively engaged in wanting to plant them properly so that the teaching farm could be a success.”

Check back here for updates as the Mann teaching garden grows!

June 23, 2016   Posted in: News, Uncategorized  No Comments

Green Walls Can Change Minds

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.

Stephen Ritz of Green Bronx Machine - Photo by Marlena Penn

Stephen Ritz of Green Bronx Machine – Photo by Marlena Penn

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 Aldi’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 City’s waste and 100% of the Bronx’s waste) and you have an unhealthy living environment.

Proclaiming, “I am a voice for the voiceless. All lives matter,” 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 Ritz’s who says he’s lost about 100 pounds since introducing the vertical gardens.

Even the kids were excited to hear Stephen Ritz! -Photo by Marlena Penn

Even the kids were excited to hear Stephen Ritz! -Photo by Marlena Penn

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 farmer’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.

Three cheers and more for Stephen Ritz - Photo by Marlena Penn

Three cheers and more for Stephen Ritz -
Photo by Marlena Penn

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, “Green walls can change minds and attitudes.”

Visit the album HERE and HERE.

 

 

 

Hosted by Sustainable Cherry Hill’s Green Health and Garden Task Forces and sponsored by:

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June 3, 2016   Posted in: News, Uncategorized  No Comments

Agent for Change – Jamie Warner

Small scale food production through sustainable gardens

Welcome to our June Agent for Change feature. 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 an Agent for Change 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.

Jamie (right) at her Food Day 2015 table.

Jamie (right) at table at Food Day 2015.

SCH: What is a typical day as an “Agent 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 I’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 what’s growing and even what’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 region’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 I’ll work on The Great Full Garden some more, but mostly I Just try to get a good night’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 “global warming.” 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, “Grow their own food.” This stuck with me as I had already designed a hundred gardens for my to-be house complete with mini-orchards and berry patches.

The Great Full Garden in bloom!

A bountiful garden tended to by Jamie.

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.  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. There’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.
Other challenges include being a stay at home mom, having to learn how to manage my time in a way that was effective and full. Kids are a challenge by themselves, trying to start a business with three kids age 5 and under felt utterly ridiculous at times. A big part of putting family first meant that I couldn’t promote my business as well as I wanted to. Thankfully word of mouth has been kind and add to that my husband has always been incredibly supportive and recognizes the inherent value of what I was doing (even if the books weren’t always in the black).

Now that I’m working out of the home the time constraints are even more obvious. I want The Great Full Garden to grow organically, and for now that means slow growth. Having to be content with slow growth is a challenge. My vision of Cumberland County and the South Jersey region is so vibrant, colorful, and happy. Day to day it sometimes seems like that vision is still so far off. What keeps me going is the fact that no big, permanent changes happen overnight. I am willing to put in the effort to see my vision come to fruition.

Lastly, a big challenge has been space constraints. With ⅓ acre, mass producing plants is definitely within the realm of possibility, but I’ve had to be creative with how we use our space because there’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.

This is where Jamie becomes inspired to be an Agent for Change!

This is where Jamie gets inspired to be an Agent for Change!

Jamie: It’s hard for me to say one thing that has inspired me. I am in a constant state of inspiration. It’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 you’ve done anything that really has any impact. I don’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 I’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, it’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

June 2, 2016   Posted in: Agent for Change  No Comments


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