People will be able to rent plots of land and build their own gardens

WALL TOWNSHIP — This weekend will mark the groundbreaking of a new garden that will aim to serve the community in a variety of ways.

On Sunday, April 17, at 1 p.m., The Allaire Community Farm will break ground on the new Community Garden, which will offer a unique experience for people in the area to rent their own plot on the Community Farm’s land and harvest their own garden.

What is now a grassy, weedy horse pasture will soon be a roughly two-acre garden in direct service of the community.

Half the garden will be sectioned off for members of the public to rent a 14-by-10-foot plot of land and become the masters of their own gardens, where they can learn to grow fresh produce and a variety of plants.

The other half of the garden will be tended to by the Community Farm and its hired master gardeners. This half will be specifically used for growing fresh produce for three local food banks: The Manasquan Food Pantry, Grace Bible Food Pantry in Wall Township and the Visitation Relief Center Food Pantry in Brick.

Sean Burney, who has run the Allaire Community Farm with his wife, Joann, since 2013, said while food banks are often overstocked with potatoes and onions — produce with a longer shelf life — there is always a need for fresh produce, such as lettuces, fruits and vegetables. Half of the new community garden will be dedicated to meeting that need.

The Allaire Community Farm is rooted in community service and the new garden is yet another avenue the Burneys will use to give back to the people in the area.

The couple first bought the land in 2013 with the idea of building 10 commercial greenhouses. However, that all changed during the first winter when they received a call from the local animal rescue that there were some animals that needed shelter.

The couple obliged and took in the animals and began hosting birthday parties for children and events for special needs children to come and interact with the animals. After seeing the effect the animals had on the children, the couple drastically changed their mission, and decided to change the farm’s path from a potential commercial success to an organization that exists to serve the community.

Since then, the farm has turned into a shelter for rescued animals, provided food to local co-ops, hosted various community events and offered programs for special needs children and young adults struggling to find jobs to come work on the farm.

While the groundbreaking for the community garden is set for Sunday, the garden will not be ready for planting until the middle of May. Mr. Burney explained that the groundbreaking will be the official start to transitioning the plot of land from horse pasture to community garden.

Although gardeners will not be able to access the land until mid-May, Mr. Burney suggested those with a rented plot can get a jumpstart by growing their seedlings at home and transplanting them in the garden in May.

So far, 13 plots have been claimed by community members and the Burneys believe that number will increase following Sunday’s groundbreaking.

The plots cost $40 for the season, which usually stretches between late April and early November, though Mr. Burney joked that in a climate like New Jersey, those dates tend to fluctuate quite often.