From junkyard to civic showcase: New and improved Early Street Community Garden unveiled in Morristown

Ladybug release at Grow It Green Morristown Garden Opening, May 12, 2018. Photo by Bailey McGuinn
Ladybug release at Grow It Green Morristown Garden Opening, May 12, 2018. Photo by Bailey McGuinn
1

 

By Bailey McGuinn

A torrential downpour couldn’t dampen Saturday’s ribbon-cutting for the expanded Early Street Community Garden in Morristown.

Council- and school board members joined dozens who gathered for an annual plant sale, a release of ladybugs that delighted children, and tours of renovations to this former junkyard-turned-civic hub.

The number of garden plots has been doubled. Additions include a solar-powered pavilion; an apiary; an entrance park featuring a permanent bike pump, repair stand, and plexiglass portholes for observing the honeybees; and, of course, a rain garden.

“We need rain, the garden’s got to grow! It’s appropriate that it’s raining this morning for this re-opening of the wonderful, beautiful garden here in Morristown,” Mayor Tim Dougherty told a sea of umbrellas. “This all really comes down to Myra and Carolle and Sam.”

Mayor Tim Dougherty cuts ribbon for the upgraded Early Street Community Garden, May 12, 2018. With him, form left: Grow It Green co-founders Carolle Huber, Myra Bowie McCready and GiG Executive Director Erica Colace. Photo by Linda Chang.
Mayor Tim Dougherty cuts ribbon for the upgraded Early Street Community Garden, May 12, 2018. With him, form left: Grow It Green co-founders Carolle Huber, Myra Bowie McCready and GiG Executive Director Erica Colace. Photo by Linda Chang.

In the spring of 2009, Myra Bowie McCready, Carolle Huber and Samantha Rothman took the initiative to transform a littered lot into a community garden.

The next year, their nonprofit, Grow It Green Morristown, created the Urban Farm, on land owned by the Morris School District behind the Lafayette Learning Center.

“Myra came up to me when I first became mayor and said this is what our idea is, this is what we want to do, we think that this is a better idea for the community,” Dougherty said.

“They believed in open space, and that this community garden is healthy for our community, and hence we have this unbelievable gem in the middle of our 2.9- square-mile town.

“It’s been a wonderful journey to watch how this has grown and become a model for what communities can do, and I’m very proud of all the people that were involved in making this happen,” the Mayor said.

Slideshow photos by Bailey McGuinn, Carolle Huber and Kevin Coughlin

Grow it Green Morristown co-founders Carolle Huber and Myra Bowie McCready, Opening Day, May 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Ladybug release at Grow It Green Morristown Garden Opening, May 12, 2018. Photo by Bailey McGuinn
Future gardener release ladybugs at Grow It Green Morristown Garden Opening, May 12, 2018. Photo by Bailey McGuinn
Kids release ladybugs at Grow it Green Morristown Opening Day, May 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Farmer Shaun, left, and Brett 'Mr. Peas' Ulrich at Grow it Green Morristown Opening Day, May 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Tim Harvey and Jayme Siegel Harvey created this new solar-powered pavilion for Grow it Green Morristown. Opening Day, May 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Grow It Green Morristown's new executive director, Erica Colace, at Grow it Green Morristown Opening Day, May 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
The revamped Early Street Community Garden, at Grow it Green Morristown Opening Day, May 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
James Gedeon sings at Grow it Green Morristown Opening Day, May 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
The new Carolle Huber Rain Garden, at Grow it Green Morristown Opening Day, May 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Kids explore the new Carolle Huber Rain Garden at Grow It Green Morristown Garden Opening, May 12, 2018. Photo by Bailey McGuinn
Boulders at revamped Early Street Community Garden are from the former Greystone Park State Psychiatric Hospital. Opening Day, May 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Visitor Bob Terhune of Morris Plains, left, is greeted by Congressional candidate Mitch Cobert, at Grow it Green Morristown Opening Day, May 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Carolle Huber at the new apiary, at Grow it Green Morristown Opening Day, May 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
New portholes let public safely observe honeybees at Early Street Community Garden. Grow it Green Morristown Opening Day, May 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
The new apiary (minus the bees) at Grow it Green Morristown Opening Day, May 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
A permanent bicycle pump has been added to the Early Street Community Garden. Grow It Green Morristown Opening Day, May 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
New bike repair station, at Grow it Green Morristown Opening Day, May 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
New plastic benches at Early Street Community Garden are recyclable. Grow it Green Morristown Opening Day, May 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Contributors to the improved Early Street Community Garden, at Grow it Green Morristown Opening Day, May 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Erica Colace, executive director of Grow it Green Morristown, Opening Day, May 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Volunteers creating the Early Street Community Garden in 2009. Photo courtesy of Carolle Huber
Volunteers building the Early Street Community Garden in 2009. Photo courtesy of Carolle Huber
The number of plots has been doubled at Grow It Green Morristown's Early Street Community Garden. Opening Day, May 12, 2018. Photo by Bailey McGuinn
BEFORE: The Early Street Community Garden in 2009, before it became a garden. Photo courtesy of Carolle Huber
The Early Street Community Garden grew here in 2009. Photo courtesy of Carolle Huber
This plot became the Early Street Community Garden in 2009. Photo courtesy of Carolle Huber
previous arrow
next arrow
PlayPause
P1200338 - Grow it Green Morristown co-founders Carolle Huber and Myra Bowie McCready, Opening Day, May 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Shadow
Slider

The Early Street garden started with 30 plots. Now there are 92. McCready said many people deserve thanks for this project. But she credits Huber with planting the seeds.

“Carolle had this plan in her head from day one, and I want to thank her for that. This is all Carolle, this was all in the original drawing,” McCready said.

“When we started this, we didn’t have specific goals,” Huber said with a laugh. “We just wanted a place where people could plant vegetables!”

The rain garden has been named for Huber, who was honored last month at Grow It Green’s annual Diamonds for Kale gala, which raised $47,000 for the nonprofit.

Grow it Green Morristown co-founders Carolle Huber and Myra Bowie McCready, Opening Day, May 12, 2018. Not pictured: Samantha Rothman, the third co-founder. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Grow it Green Morristown co-founders Carolle Huber and Myra Bowie McCready, Opening Day, May 12, 2018. Not pictured: Samantha Rothman, the third co-founder. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
‘THE BEST JOB EVER’

Improvements unveiled Saturday were made possible by a capital drive that so far has raised about $140,000 of its $200,000 goal. (Contributions still are welcome, Huber said.)

Money from last month’s gala will support Grow It Green programs that include growing food for donation to local shelters and soup kitchens and running educational activities for area students, said new Executive Director Erica Colace.

“I’m only four months on the job, but it’s been kind of a whirlwind!” Colace said.

Rain did not deter fans of the Early Street Community Garden from its 2018 coming out party. Photo by Linda Chang
Rain did not deter fans of the Early Street Community Garden from its 2018 coming out party. Photo by Linda Chang

In addition to creating sustainable farms and gardens, the organization educates the community on healthy eating and how to respect the environment, and makes fresh, local food accessible to all.

Grow It Green programs reach more than 2,000 children every year.

“It’s the best job ever!” said Farm Educator Tina Miller, who teaches 2nd graders from the Morris School District about plant biology, healthy eating and nutrition.

“Every 2nd grader comes to the farm, plants something, and gets to kind of see where their food comes from. We’ll talk about the life cycle of a plant, what helps our plants grow, the soil and how to make it healthier, and compost.

“If there are vegetables in season from the farm, I’ll bring them to the classroom. It gives them the chance to try something they wouldn’t try normally at that age.

It’s important for them to know where their food comes from,” Miller said.

Farmer Shaun, left, and Brett 'Mr. Peas' Ulrich at Grow it Green Morristown Opening Day, May 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Farmer Shaun, left, and Brett ‘Mr. Peas’ Ulrich at Grow it Green Morristown Opening Day, May 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Shaun Ananko, known to many students as “Farmer Shaun,” has worked for eight years at Grow It Green’s Urban Farm, New Jersey’s largest urban educational farm.

“My days entail lots of field trips from students,” Ananko explained. “The majority of the produce we grow, we split up between the Interfaith Food Pantry, the Community Soup Kitchen, Table of Hope, and the cafeteria at the high school.”

Families that grow food at the Community Garden also donate it, or take it home to cook for themselves, Ananko said.

‘EVERYTHING HERE IS RECYCLED’

When the Community Garden started, Grow It Green was borrowing the Early Street property from its owner, Huber recounted.

“This was born because he was getting fined for having garbage along the sidewalk all the time, and he said he’d let us use it if we promised to keep it clean. He didn’t charge us, he just let us use the property for free, until it was going to be developed.

“But then the land was acquired by the town four years ago. When we expanded last year, we went to 98 boxes. And we still have 60 families on the waiting list,” Huber said.

THEN AND NOW: The Early Street Garden, pre-construction, 2009; and in 2018. Photo (left) courtesy of Carolle Huber; right, by Linda Chang.
THEN AND NOW: The Early Street Garden, pre-construction, 2009; and in 2018. Photo (left) courtesy of Carolle Huber; right, by Linda Chang.

Because tax dollars were involved in the acquisition, Huber said, part of the site must remain open to the public.

“We couldn’t fence it in like it used to be, so we pushed the fence back and we created this great little public park, which is really used. Just yesterday we finally opened the back to the public. Now people have access to the pavilion all the time,” she said.

What’s really cool, continued Huber, a landscape architect, is how sustainable this venture is.

Every plant is a native species. Stone around the rain garden was recycled from debris from sidewalk repairs up the street. Pathway slabs were leftovers donated by the Morris Brick and Stone Co.

Boulders that serve as sitting places came from the demolition of the Greystone Park State Psychiatric Hospital. Eastern Concrete donated footings for the pavilion, which was designed by  Jayme Siegel and constructed by her husband Tim Harvey’s firm.

Tim Harvey and Jayme Siegel Harvey created this new solar-powered pavilion for Grow it Green Morristown. Opening Day, May 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Tim Harvey and Jayme Siegel Harvey created this new solar-powered pavilion for Grow it Green Morristown. Opening Day, May 12, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The pavilion’s rooftop solar panels will power lights for special events. Piping from the roof funnels rainwater into a giant cistern, to irrigate the plots. The rain garden will channel rainwater underground instead of into storm sewers; a second rain garden is contemplated near the street, to cleanse runoff before storm sewers carry it to the Whippany River.

Grow It Green also is working out details for a composting toilet, which Cragislist founder and Morristown High alumnus Craig Newmark is underwriting.
 

“Everything here is recycled,” Huber said. Even the plastic benches in the parklet can be recycled when they wear out, she said. “This garden is really a great model for sustainable landscaping. ”

Upcoming Grow It Green events include farmstand sales on Thursdays and Saturdays from June to November, multiple ladybug releases this summer, and gardening classes.  Visit the nonprofit’s website for more information. 

MorristownGreen.com correspondent Bailey McGuinn is a senior at Morristown High School. She will study psychology, biology and Spanish this fall at the University of Virginia. Kevin Coughlin contributed to this report.

If you’ve read this far… you clearly value your local news. Now we need your help to keep producing the local coverage you depend on! More people are reading Morristown Green than ever. But costs keep rising. Reporting the news takes time, money and hard work. We do it because we, like you, believe an informed citizenry is vital to a healthy community.

So please, CONTRIBUTE to MG or become a monthly SUBSCRIBER. ADVERTISE on Morristown Green. LIKE us on Facebook, FOLLOW us on Twitter, and SIGN UP for our newsletter.

[interactive_copyright_notice float='left']
[icopyright_horizontal_toolbar float='right']

1 COMMENT

  1. What a special day in Morristown. The ability of Myra and Carolle and Sam to persuade our administration to support this long ago dream of Mill Street resident Dorothy Harvey, is to be applauded. Dorothy and her husband Merrill created the picket signs they used to protest the sale of this property for development without an environmental clean up. The attention and publicity caused by her efforts so long ago, ultimately led to the plan developed by Carolle for the garden on the site. The Harveys must have been smiling down from heaven, in the form of raindrops seems quite suitable.

LEAVE A REPLY

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.