One perk of running a community garden is having your own plot, right?
Not at Grow It Green Morristown.
“There’s a long waiting list of people for the Early Street Community Garden, and I wouldn’t want to deprive anyone of their plot,” Abby Gallo said on Tuesday, at her first meet-and-greet since becoming the nonprofit’s first executive director last month.
Gallo said her top priority will be raising $200,000 for garden improvements that include adding more plots–nearly twice as many– to make that waiting list a little shorter.
“It’s an ambitious goal,” she acknowledged.
Grow It Green co-founder Carolle Huber said she hopes the “Grow Early” campaign will bear fruit by the spring of 2016.
The organization aims to recruit sponsors for various components envisioned for the Early Street garden, which opened in 2009 and spans about an acre.
Grow It Green worked with Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty’s office last year to secure state and county grants to spare the property from development.
Grow It Green also operates the Urban Farm at Lafayette, a teaching farm behind the Lafayette Learning Center.
Gallo said a bike repair station planned for the community garden will be named for the Gran Fondo, an annual Morristown cycling event that has been a benefactor of Grow It Green.
Plans also call for a public “parklet” fronting Early Street, a solar-powered pavilion with a rainwater catchment for irrigation, a composting center, a rain garden with native plants, a glass-enclosed apiary, a walking path around the garden’s perimeter, and 94 garden beds.
Over the winter, meanwhile, the Urban Farm will supply produce and eggs to the farmers market at Fosterfields in Morris Township (second Sunday, December through May). And a film series focusing on sustainable foods is coming.
“When I saw this opportunity, I couldn’t pass it up,” Gallo said of her new gig. “It’s a great group of people, it’s a great organization, it’s part of the community I live in. And I think with those things combined, you really can’t go wrong.”
Thirty people applied for the job, according to Christine Volinsky, who chaired the board’s search committee. About a dozen candidates were interviewed, she said.
“Abby rose to the top very early, because of her background in sustainability,” Volinsky said. “She can work with the board, and high-level funders, and she can work with students. That’s what it’s all about.”
Gallo earned a master’s degree in sustainability management from Columbia University. At Samsung, she was involved with the company’s sustainability and corporate citizenship programs. Gallo also has worked for the Rainforest Alliance and Aramark.
She came to know Grow It Green through her blog, EcoMotown; for a brief time she also covered sustainability issues for MorristownGreen.com.
“Having Abby’s leadership and professionalism allows the day-to-day operations of the organization to be maximized, and allows the board to focus on the tasks they’re supposed to do, like visioning and policy. The board articulates the vision and the executive director executes it,” said Grow It Green co-founder Samantha Rothman.
Founders tend to micro-manage, Rothman said. For the nonprofit to fulfill its mission of being community-driven, the founders had to release the reins, she said.
“That will be hard,” acknowledged Carolle Huber, who started Grow It Green with Rothman and Myra Bowie McCready. Huber said she looks forward to fundraising, while leaving daily chores to the new executive director.
“She’s really passionate about what we’re doing, and really understands what we’re doing,” she said of Gallo.
And yes, that knowledge extends to gardening. Gallo may not have a plot on Early Street, but she does have a garden at home in Harding, where she grows everything from asparagus to tomatoes. The Maine native said she spent many summer afternoons helping her parents tend their garden, and loved it.
“I think it’s one of the most fulfilling things a person can do,” Gallo said.