Right now, farm stands display bushels overflowing with freshly-picked, local fruit and vegetables, especially ‘Jersey’ tomatoes! Rich in flavor, tenderness, and juiciness, vine-ripened tomatoes from New Jersey are the best in the world!
Randolph enjoys a rich farming history. Randolph’s first citizens made their living directly or indirectly (millers, blacksmiths, storekeepers, tanners, coopers) from the land. This way of life was characteristic of rural America in the 19th century.
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Fertile Randolph land provided local farmers with an abundance of vegetable and grain crops, peach and apple orchards, and dairy farms. In 1806 – the first year records were kept – the municipal tax assessor identified one-hundred farms in Randolph.
While barely a handful of these farms still exist today, it is only natural that Randolph would someday have its own community garden. The number one past time in the United States, gardening was already very popular in Randolph.
The introduction of a community garden in Randolph epitomized residents identifying a new recreational opportunity, forming a committee of interested volunteers, researching the options, and seeing it through to completion. The community garden movement began with the victory gardens during World War II, when Americans began growing fruits and vegetables in backyards, empty lots, even rooftops to supplement rationed foods.
Randolph’s community garden committee was formed in 2011 and was tasked to evaluate other local municipal community garden efforts and to determine if there was a sustaining interest in Randolph for a community garden. Analysis of other municipal community gardens included the size and number of planting beds, what resources are provided, whether the garden should be organic, and fencing requirements. Years of volunteer effort resulted in the inclusion of a community garden in Randolph Township’s 2016 Parks and Recreation Master Plan followed by site selection in the soon-to-be-developed Veterans Community Park.
Randolph’s community garden is located in the new Veterans Community Park on Calais Road. Veterans Community Park has been recognized with the Morris Park Alliance facility award in 2022 and the New Jersey Recreation and Park Association (NJRPA) 2023 Excellence in Design Award for a Multi-Use Facility in 2023.
Opened in 2020, Randolph’s community garden consists of 168 organic planting beds, each measuring six feet wide by fourteen feet long. Members of all ages and all skill levels from beginners just getting started with gardening through experienced master gardeners each pay a $40 annual fee per planting bed to cover all the expenses of running the community garden, including garden tools, mulch, compost, and water. More than just a planting bed rental, your community garden membership affords you an opportunity to meet some great new friends with whom you can learn and share.
New community garden members are required to participate in an orientation program – topics covered include organic gardening best practices, bug and weed control, and gardener expectations. Periodic meetings are held to cover interesting gardening topics, and there are also walk-and-talk programs where gardeners walk around the garden and share gardening experiences and ideas. Gardeners regularly review bug reports from Rutgers University.
The community garden has proven to be an excellent addition to Randolph’s already extensive list of successful recreation opportunities and has grown to include a pollinator garden in 2021. The garden is also home to blue bird houses, a seed-sharing cabinet, and park benches to enjoy the serenity of the garden with a neighbor and an ice tea. In the spirit of giving back, gardeners have partnered with the Randolph Food Pantry and the Interfaith Food Pantry providing hundreds of pounds of fresh produce annually.
Gardening is considered exercise by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and getting involved with a community garden is an enjoyable means of producing your own food while sharing your gardening passion and expertise with your neighbors.
Please contact the Randolph Township Department of Parks and Recreation at 973-989-7081 to learn more about Randolph’s community garden.
Now more than ever, it is important to stay informed. On the front page of our Township website there is a button labeled “Stay Informed!” If you click on it, you can sign up for Township information broadcast systems and view news, events, and emergency notices.
If I can assist you in any way, please reach out to me. My contact information is located on the Township website. Stay safe, and enjoy everything that Randolph has to offer!
Mayor, Randolph Township 2023