Our GPS tells us we are only one mile from the City Green Farm Eco-Center, yet we are wondering if it is mistaken, as we are on a highway, buzzing past dense suburbs, strip malls, and industrial districts. Sure enough, though, we pull off the exit from the Garden State Parkway and just a quarter mile up the road is a five-acre urban farm with organic vegetable production, a permaculture food forest, a “Learning Farm” educational area with chickens and a small herd of goats, and loads of native perennials buzzing with bees and butterflies.
City Green is a non-profit urban farming and gardening organization dedicated to growing food and nourishing community across New Jersey through agricultural and educational programming, creating access to farm fresh food for low-income families, and empowering residents to be active stewards of their natural environment.
We are met by the farm manager, Henry, and the food access coordinator, Lisa, who are loading the Veggie Mobile with early spring crops including spinach, beets, carrots, broccoli, and kale, as well as eggs and fruit purchased from another New Jersey farm, and City Green’s own honey. City Green’s Veggie Mobile is a refrigerated box truck equipped with market shelving and an awning for setting up mobile farm stands in crowded urban centers, which has been supported by Newman’s Own Foundation since 2015. The Veggie Mobile allows City Green to make multiple market stops in a variety of “food desert” neighborhoods each day, while keeping the produce fresh, even on the hottest of summer days. We are excited to ride along to today’s stop at Passaic City Hall.
We pass through the compact urban center, arriving to a crowd of young moms with strollers, who have walked to the location and are patiently waiting for the market to open. When we arrive, we chat with Felicita, a mother of three children. She emigrated to New Jersey from Mexico five years ago with her husband, and fondly remembers shopping for produce in open-air markets. Felicita currently lives in Passaic where she has had a very difficult time finding the kind of fresh vegetables she was used to in her native country. Each Friday during market season, Felicita and her sister, along with dozens of other women, wait in line — rain or shine — before the City Green truck even pulls up. She buys bags and bags of produce that she says tastes 100% better than anything she tasted since she moved to this city!
She shares with us her recipe for a traditional squash dish she cooks with City Green squash each summer, as she tells us how much it means to have this mobile farm market. City Green accepts and doubles her federal food assistance benefits, stretching her limited dollars in feeding her family the fresh, healthy food they crave. With this incentive in place, City Green nearly sells out of the day’s produce to Felicita and the other eager moms gathered at City Hall. A win-win for local farmers and families.
Read about our other stops on the Road Trip Blog or scroll through the map to see where we have been.