project leader
Alexandra P
343 Meeker Ave.
New Jersey (South Ward, Weequhaic Neighborhood)
latest update rss
Thank You For Your Support!

the project


SWAG Project is an established urban farming, educational and community-building program. At SWAG, farming and food are tools for creating healthier families, providing educational enrichment and fostering new community bonds. For four years we have lead a collaboration with local schools, community development organizations, and faith institutions to offer our programming. An additional effect: we are a positive space for teens to volunteer, learn by doing, and get away from the normal pressures of the streets while honing their leadership skills.

We have an abundant small farm, run a weekly farmer’s market, provide multiple educational outreach programs to the surrounding schools, and serve as a community event hub. We focus on nutrition and hands-on farm projects that introduce people to healthy fresh foods. In the last season alone we grew (and sold or gave away) over 3,500 lbs. of organic fruits and vegetables!

In 2014 we introduced over 750 local students to urban food growing and interacted with over 150 additional teen and college volunteers from across Newark, New Jersey, and New York City.  Additionally, we hosted over 100 adult volunteers and involved them with hands-on experience and learning in both food growing and community activism. 

Our project started small and does a lot with a little. What we achieve is due to our outstanding volunteer team built on community collaboration. It is also thanks to donations and corporate and city partnerships. In just four years time with a shoe-string budget we have become a hub and an asset to the entire neighborhood. 

We operate our program with the idea that a handful of local institutions (with some outside help) can improve the neighborhood and foster HOPE (Health, Openness, Personal Growth and Entrepreneurship) in the community and especially for students. 2014 has already been exciting, and now we are thinking about the future!

the steps

In 2014 our goal is to improve the sustainability and self-sufficiency of SWAG Project Farm.  We want to reduce the external inputs required to make the farm run each year by creating and saving them ourselves.  This means collecting our own water, making our own soil and saving and growing our own seedlings! Also, we will employ sustainability interns throughout the course of the year to help implement our upgrades and continue to ensure local participation.  In doing this we will not only reduce our reliance on new materials (and money) but also at the same time create new community and student learning opportunities.

Here’s how we plan to start making our farm more self-reliant!

First: Save water; Don’t waste a drop! In Spring of 2015 we will build a rainwater collection structure with a roof that funnels rainwater into a cistern.  Our proposed system will allow us to meet 50% of the water needs on our farm in an average year. The rainwater structure will also double as a shade area for an outdoor classroom and resting place away from the summer sun.

Second: Recreate soil! In Summer we will construct two new compost bins and a vermin-culture system where organic materials from the farm will break down over the winter to become fresh, nutrient-dense soil and fertilizer for the farm the next season.  Rather than relying on organic fertilizers or soil additives, we will simply recycle food scraps, leaves, wood chips, plant stalks, etc. Closing the soil cycle is both economical and completely in tune with nature’s life/death cycle!

Third: A hoop-house for germinating Seedlings!  In fall we will erect a 30’ x 14’ hoop house frame (generously donated last year by our friends at Garden State Urban Farms) and stretch a new plastic skin over it.  This will allow us to continue growing crops later into the winter season, increasing our yield and also our ability to provide fresh food to the community. And, with the hoop house holding warmth even in the cold early Spring, instead of having to purchase new seeds each year, we will be able to start our own seedlings.

Fourth: Sustainability Interns! 

Each year  SWAG offers long term internships to local high school and college interns.  This provides students with an opportunity to learn about their local food system and do something fun and interesting to change it, while also providing the farm with excited young farmers to carry the project forward. For students that want to work with us at their neighborhood farm there is often a tough choice between managing school work, working with us (which is fun, rewarding and also educational!) or finding another job that can offer more hours and pay. To help ease the difficulty of this choice provide a small stipend, lunch and travel costs reimbursement. With this, they can take home a little bit of money for their work, not come out of their own pockets for food/bus/train, AND – importantly – still have some hours to hold another part-time job if needed. 

All our water, compost and seed saving is with an eye towards positioning the farm for the following season. These strategies are completely in line with the reduce/reuse/recycle framework. The strategies cut our dependency on outside resources and bring the farm closer to a completely ‘closed cycle’ - true sustainability.  Our intern stipends improve our sustainability as well, as they insure participation by local youth who continue to invest in their community and also carry the project through to other generations and into the future.

why we're doing it

We believe that everyone has the right to healthy, nutritious food! Part of that right means being able to grow our own food, learning about nutrition, sustainability and where our food comes from, and reflecting on how local environment affects our food and health choices. If people know their food intimately and can take control of their food system, they will incorporate healthier foods into their lives, benefiting both individuals and communities through improved health and improved relationships. People in communities that jointly care for their land and their food create common bonds and form strong networks that extend beyond the farm. Growing and learning about healthy local food also brings diverse people together – ‘bridges gaps.’ In this way urban farming is a crucial solution, helping to integrate our all-too-often segregated community. 

Unfortunately, in many communities, it is a challenge for people to claim their right to healthy food! In many neighborhoods, the South Ward of Newark especially, there are gaps in the food system and severed connections to local healthy food. Our community members have expressed that healthy local food is lacking, and with it, knowledge, exposure and healthy habits are diminished. We completed a partner study with Drexel University that exposed a number of challenges for residents in our surrounding area. It showed us that the South Ward contains racially and socioeconomically isolated, largely poor and disproportionately unhealthy populations when compared to other NJ cities and communities! Yet hope and opportunity remain.

SWAG Project is a community-driven effort to mitigate underlying challenges that cause inequalities: specifically lack of great local food and stronger community ties. Our partners and local stakeholders steer the project toward the best approaches for the neighborhood. Since 2009 we have achieved successes with our current programs, but we know that improved healthy food access, opportunities for positive youth activities, and creating community ties remain ongoing necessities. Each year there is more to be done. We hope that by making SWAG Project more sustainable we can continue to 'plant the seeds of hope,' and to transform both health and social outcomes.



RAISED = $6,189.00
ioby Platform Fee  $35.00
3rd Party Payment Processing Fee (3%) $179.24

Rainwater Collection System -  $1,200        
•   Piping $190 190     190
•   Wood Framing $90 90     90
•   Roofing $250 250     250
•   Footing $230 230     230
•   Rain Cistern $360 360     360
•   Misc. Hardware $80 80     80
2 Large Compost Bins - $600       1 bin
•   lumber – $160 x 2 320     160
•   screws and hardware – $60 120     30
•   chicken wire – $140 180     70
•   corrugated fiberglass – $80 160     40
One 14’x30’ Hoop-house (replacement pieces) - $1,375        
•   plastic film- 1 small roll of polly film $384 384     0
•   wire lock - double wire lock $247 247     247
•   End wall wire lock  - $153 153     153
•   wood end wall brackets x12 - $44 44     44
•   pair of roll-up sides - $507 507     155
•   handle kit for sides $30 30     30
•   Tek Drilling screws x100 - $10 10     10
Student Sustainability Interns (4) Total $2,800        
•   4 Students stipends $500 each - $2000 2000     1500
•   6 weeks of lunches for interns and supervisors  - $40 40     40
•   Travel stipends $100 per 4 students - $400 400     300
Farmer Stipend       550
Travel stipend       130
Cistern       360
Seedlings       176
Intern Coordinator stipend       600
Total Budget $5,975 5795     5795

Any extra funds will go toward other materials and overhead.

Rainwater Collection System -  $1,200

  • ​Piping $190
  • Wood Framing $90
  • Roofing $250
  • Footing $230
  • Rain Cistern $360
  • Misc. Hardware $80

2 Large Compost Bins - $600

  • lumber – $160 x
  • screws and hardware – $60
  • chicken wire – $140
  • corrugated fiberglass – $80

One 14’x30’ Hoop-house (replacement pieces) - $1,375

  • plastic film- 1 small roll of polly film $384
  • wire lock - double wire lock $247
  • End wall wire lock  - $153
  • wood end wall brackets x12 - $44
  • pair of roll-up sides - $507
  • handle kit for sides $30
  • Tek Drilling screws x100 - $10

Student Sustainability Interns (4) Total $2,800

  • 4 Students stipends $500 each - $200
  • 6 weeks of lunches for interns and supervisors  - $40
  • Travel stipends $100 per 4 students - $400

Total Budget $5,975


SUBTOTAL = 5975.00
ioby Platform Fee  35.00
3rd Party Payment Processing Fee (3%) 179.25
TOTAL TO RAISE = 6189.25



Thank You For Your Support!

Dear Friends, Family, Farmers and Supporters!

The entire SWAG Project team sends it’s love and appreciation for helping us to reach another IOBY goal!  Without your ongoing support we wouldn’t be able to bring new sustainable solutions to the farm, and to offer increased opportunities for our local community!

SWAG has been active in our community for the last 5 years and your support has allowed us to expand and improve over time.  Since 2010 we’ve been helping our local Newark South Ward community to grow fresh foods, engage with agriculture, learn about sustainability and become active on community development and food justice issues.  We’ve also been able to provide education to youth of all ages –elementary school enrichment visits to teen farm workshops and college internships and a plethora of programming in between.

This years donations will go to improving the sustainability of our local urban farm.  Our focus is on making the project both more productive and renewable.  We plan to build a water catchment system, improve our composting capabilities, and construct a greenhouse for season extension.  These funds will also go towards social sustainability by providing stipends for our summer and fall teen sustainability and youth farmer interns.

Your donations do so much more than fund specific programing, they allow us to continue to do important community development and engagement work and to mold our farm to suit the communities needs!  In the last year alone we were able to educate over 700 students, grow over 4000 lbs. of food (of which 25% was donated or given away.) and engage over 150 different local volunteers.  Our site has become a space for the community to come and relax and volunteer, catch up with neighbors and engage with local residents over issues. Your support allows us to continue to build new partnerships in the community, and has allowed us to open two new fresh food markets, increasing our ability to provide nutritious and affordable food to residents across Newark.

We couldn’t do it without all your help.  2015 has been a great year so far. We look forward to continuing to make a change for the good in our community - to growing good food and build strong relationships across the city! 

Thanks again

Alexandra and The SWAG Team


This is where photos will go once we build flickr integration


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