To the Editor:
Last month concluded Grow It Green Morristown’s “Be Your Own Farmer” series, and we wish to commend this organization for offering our community such a valuable educational experience.
In particular, we commend Farmer Shaun Ananko, director of agriculture and education at the Urban Farm located in Morristown.
We are both relatively new residents in the Morristown area, and we feel so fortunate to have had the exceptional learning experience that we did through Grow It Green’s nine-class series.
To say that we are novice gardeners would be an understatement! Neither of us has ever grown more than potted tomatoes or herbs – and even that didn’t always go so well!
In the course of the “Be Your Own Farmer” series, Farmer Shaun walked us through the process of becoming successful backyard farmers month by month. His curriculum was perfectly timed to ensure that we worked through each “step” in the backyard gardening process as we approached the appropriate time of year.
For example, in March, we learned how to plant our seeds and tend to them indoors; in April, we learned how to build raised garden beds and successfully transfer our seeds outdoors; in May, we learned about succession planting, and so on through harvesting and preparing our beds for winter in the fall.
By August, our families were regularly enjoying smoothies, salads with homegrown lettuce, kale, tomatoes, and cucumbers, homegrown eggplant and oregano in eggplant parmesan dinners, beautiful heirloom tomatoes and crisp, green basil in fresh caprese salads, a variety of spaghetti squash dishes and zucchini breads, and many other delicious treats – all grown in our suburban backyards in single, relatively small raised garden beds.
Farmer Shaun’s program places a strong emphasis on the fact that sustainable farming practices can go a long way to combating environmental crises like climate change, decreasing bee populations, and factory farming/industrialized agriculture.
Thanks to our class in May, we are also now composters who no longer feel as guilty when our toddlers don’t eat all of their meals because we know that we are not adding waste to our landfills and methane to our atmosphere with that leftover food.
Come next season, we will be able to use our compost, rather than chemical fertilizer, to replenish our soil and continue our gardening. And it’s been wonderful for our children to help us plant fruits, veggies, and flowers and help us harvest our crops.
The class series also inspired us to support Grow It Green by patronizing their farm stand on Thursday afternoons or Saturday mornings. Although we harvested much of our own yield, it wasn’t enough to entirely feed our families, so it was wonderful to supplement with their fresh crops, which surpass USDA standards for certified organic produce.
The farm also provided excellent free entertainment for our young children, who loved choosing food, running around the grounds, and visiting the chickens.
Most importantly, as a result of our participation in this series, we both feel more deeply connected to the land we are blessed to live on and around, and we understand that we have the responsibility and the privilege to act as responsible stewards.
Thank you, Grow It Green and Farmer Shaun, for nine months of joyful, practical learning.
Erin Dunn, Morristown
Shannon Falkner, Morris Township