Passaic County’s largest food pantry received a newly planted vegetable garden with the help of a Dumont high school student.
Derek Ravensbergen, a Life Scout with Troop 64 in Dumont, a member of the Calvary United Methodist Church, lead a group of church members and fellow scouts in planting tomatoes, green beans, eggplants, peppers, and collard greens as part of his Eagle Scout project.
“Collard greens take up most of the garden space because they are in great demand by the families served by CUMAC and are because they are very nutrient-dense,” Ravensbergen said.
Ravensbergen and others cleared overgrown weeds and an unproductive fruit tree to make space for planting at the Dumont church property which will benefit the Center for United Methodist Aid to the Community (CUMAC).
Produce from the “Garden for the Hungry” will be distributed to needy families by CUMAC. The nonprofit served 38,000 New Jersey residents in 2015.
“The current food supply at CUMAC is low and expected to become more of a crisis as summer recess leaves thousands of children without healthy meals otherwise provided in school,” CUMAC Executive Director Patricia Bruger said.
Bruger’s husband Carl helped the Dumont High School sophomore in his quest to develop leadership skills.
Carl Bruger grew the seedlings in his home for the garden. “Mr. Bruger planted and grew every seedling at his home. We just had to plant them! He is an expert gardener,” Ravensbergen credited. He also guided the teenager in tilling the soil using a tilling machine. “It’s not an easy machine to use, but Derek picked up quickly and handled it very well,” he said.
The church has been growing organic produce for CUMAC for the past seven years. Every year several hundred pounds of vegetables make it to the pantry from the church’s garden.
Ravensbergen also conducted research to better the plot of land to produce more crop. The group installed water collection tanks to gather storm water, setup a new irrigation system, and installed a solar timer to regulate water supply at the 25′x50′ garden.
“No garden is completely self-sustaining. We still need people to weed, harvest and monitor the irrigation system throughout the season,” Ravensbergen said. “I hope to help by inspiring community members to join in the project by volunteering some of their time to accomplish these things.”
Individuals or groups interested in helping to maintain the garden may contact the Church Office at 201-384-3630 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.