Newark’s Adopt-a-Lot Program Lets Community Members Beautify the City and Grow Food

Courtesy of NJ Arts News

In New Jersey’s largest city, an urban gardening initiative is taking hold. The program, called Adopt-a-Lot, was started by the city of Newark nine years ago.

Food Policy Director Elizabeth Reynoso explains. “They city’s Adopt-a-Lot program began in 2004 and the idea of it was to be able to give the opportunity to residents to adopt vacant city-owned lots in their neighborhoods, not only just to beautify it, but to actually grow food,” she said.

Newark resident Walter Berry works on a lot adopted by his mother-in-law Wanda Upshaw. “We have vegetables being grown here for the community. We also have ornamentals, flowers, dwarf fruit trees, there’s a pond, a waterfall, there’s tree stumps where people can sit and rest,” Berry said.

“What I love most about paradise gardens is seeing the transformation from a weeded, garbage dump to this beautiful place sitting right in the middle of the central ward of Newark, New Jersey,” Upshaw said.

Adopt-a-Lot participants receive gardening materials from the Greater Newark Conservancy, an environmental non-profit.

“We will help get them started by getting them two 4 by 8s of soil. We also provide workshops for them and technical advice, seed donations and plants,” said Conservancy Community Greening Coordinator Justin Allen.

With more than 80 open lots adopted throughout the city, the Adopt a Lot program is making a visible difference in many Newark neighborhoods.

“Community residents are experiencing more community cohesiveness because of being able to have a place in the community where they can gather, just more eyes on the street. It gives that sense of confidence that we’re taking care of ourselves and taking pride in where we live,” Reynoso said.

“In 2009, there were a few Adopt-a-Lots, there were a few urban gardens. But now you see them on every lot almost,” said Upshaw. “Everybody on every block should have a lot. Why not?”

Transforming vacant lots in Newark into spaces that are both beautiful and healthy.