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Rutgers Gardens grows into new territory with year-round facility

<p>The Rutgers Farmer’s Market, nested inside the Rutgers Gardens, connects students with locally grown produce and prepared items like fruits, vegetables and jam. RUTGERS.EDU</p>

The Rutgers Farmer’s Market, nested inside the Rutgers Gardens, connects students with locally grown produce and prepared items like fruits, vegetables and jam. RUTGERS.EDU

Nested inside the Rutgers Gardens, students can find the Rutgers Farmers Market — a hidden gem located off Cook campus that features fresh veggies and produce. 

“The mission of the Rutgers Gardens Farmers Market is to provide the local community, including residents, students, university faculty and staff, University Dining and restaurants the opportunity to experience and purchase fresh, locally grown and/or prepared food products," according to the Rutgers Gardens' website.

The market is a small component of Rutgers Gardens and has a lot to offer the student body, including an expansive list of local produce. 

Rutgers Gardens is the University's public space. It is approximately 180 acres, featuring approximately 40 acres of colorful plant displays and a 70-acre woodlot named the Frank G. Helyar Woods, said Mary Ann Schrum, manager of the Rutgers Farmer's Market. Helyar Woods has numerous walking trails and is open seven days a week from May to December. 

Created in 2008 by Paul Valetutti, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences student, the market originally had 10 vendors and has grown to more than 30. They sell products that are either locally grown, such as fruits and vegetables, or locally prepared like jams, soups and pestos.

Beechtree Farm, Chickadee Creek Farm and Gourmet Fruits and Nuts are among the vendors who will be stationed there during the farm's winter season. 

In a move to make seasonal produce available all year, the market is opening its first year-round farmers market under a green roof structure, according to New Brunswick Today. With the help of an anonymous donor, $150,000 were matched to the group's personal fundraising efforts to support the progress they made over the last few years. 

“The market had been in existence since 2008. We are in the process of building a new structure, Cook’s Market, which will be the new home for the market," Schrum said.

The idea originated from a donor who understood how a physical structure could protect vendors and customers from poor weather. Since the market is located at the entrance to Rutgers Gardens, it also provides a physical ‘marker’ signaling the entrance. 

Rutgers Gardens provides an avenue for students to hone their skills in educating the public about farm-grown items. Students can learn more by applying online as a volunteer or by attending one of the garden's summer courses.

Volunteers are accepted throughout the year, and orientations give students the opportunity to join at any time. The Gardens hosts several events that are open to the general public each year. 

This Saturday's "How to Grow More With Less" teaches participants the essentials of sustainable gardening. "Pruning Techniques" on March 3 shows the correct way to prune trees and bushes, which is crucial for the development of healthy trees.

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