By Jennifer Ortiz
HOWELL — The Howell Organic Community Gardens recently received the donation of a water line from New Jersey American Water and with the assistance of employees from the Department of Public Works (DPW), water is now being supplied to the gardens at Route 524 and Squankum-Yellowbrook Road.
Richard Pereira, the vice president of the Howell Organic Community Gardens, said that before the water line was installed, the garden went through one growing season with no water supply or electricity.
“For more than a year, people were bringing water to the garden in milk jugs and five-gallon containers. That was a very difficult situation,” Pereira said. “We requested help from New Jersey American Water and they helped us out with the cost of running the water line.
“We also had Atlantic Plumbing Supply help us out and Water Works Supply Co. in Farmingdale. It was a collective effort; there were 15 people or so putting in that water line,” Pereira said. “We are very appreciative to New Jersey American Water and … to all the local businesses that came together to help us out. It was a big community effort.”
Dana Vargo, the president the Howell Organic Community Gardens, said, “The Howell DPW did a ridiculous amount of work and were very helpful. It was a long, long process, two years of working on it.”
Pereira said the water line was a coordinated effort with New Jersey American Water, the Howell DPW, Water Works Supply in Farmingdale, Atlantic Plumbing in Wall Township and on-site plumbing work contributed by members of the community gardens.
Vargo said having the community gardens up and running is important so that people can learn to grow their own food.
“Most people think food grows in the supermarket. It’s true! It’s funny. You buy an apple from the grocery store, even if it’s local, that doesn’t mean it’s organic; it may still be filled with pesticides,” Vargo said.
In the community gardens, a resident who rents a plot of land agrees to follow guidelines such as only using organic fertilization and keeping the area free of pesticides and growth hormones.
“The fees people pay (to rent a plot in the garden) … is what we use to pay for the water,” Vargo said.
Vargo said some people have rented plots and are growing food so they may donate food to people in need.
She said one plot can produce more than 100 pounds of food. She offered a plot in the gardens to any Howell food bank and to the charities to which those food banks donate.
Vargo said volunteers from a food bank or a charity are welcome to grow the food and then distribute it to their clients. She may be reached at 732-740-9927. Additional information is available at www.howellorganiccommunitygardens.com
One aspect of the community gardens beautification process involved Pereira’s son, Justin Pereira, 17, who recently completed an Eagle Scout project at the site. Justin is a member of Boy Scout Troop 515, sponsored by the Howell-Ramtown Elks.
Pereira said his son built a pagoda for the garden and an area where people may sit and where lessons about gardening may be offered. Justin also created landscape beds.
Pereira said Justin raised $1,200 to cover the cost of the project.
“The scouts helped him with a car wash to raise funds and with construction at the gardens,” he said. “There was a lot of time put into it. Justin also raised funds for a new picnic table, too.”