Through the Office of Sustainability, Camden County has several initiatives.
Over the past several years, it’s been able to provide a significant benefit to the county by growing various annuals and perennials that can be donated to various parks within the county park system.
Additionally, its hydroponics garden grows various types of lettuce, as well as other fruits and vegetables, nearly year-round that are then donated to partners within Camden County, such as The Cathedral Kitchen and Neighborhood Center, both in Camden, while also providing the Philadelphia Zoo with lettuce for its animals.
However, another large initiative the Office of Sustainability has been working toward achieving since its inception is the promotion of self-sustainability when it comes to growing one’s own food.
In response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the county offered to help residents get “Victory Gardens” started through a Plant Share Program, where residents receive vegetable plants and herbs that have been growing since January to plant at home.
The county was originally scheduled to host the annual Green Garden Fair during the last weekend in April, which was cancelled due to COVID-19. Having grown since January in anticipation of the event, Director of Sustainability Chris Waldron says the county had approximately 5,000 plants, including 75 different types of produce, that had to be given out.
“We wanted to find a way to give back to the community in a meaningful way at this time and help promote the ‘Victory Garden’ concept which was popular during the World Wars,” Waldron said. “It’s basically encouraging people to grow their own food in small amounts, whether it be their backyard, a back porch, inside, wherever.
“Food is obviously always going to be an issue and with it getting warmer now, we thought it would be a good gesture on behalf of the county and the freeholders to do a giveaway.”
According to Freeholder Young, the county experienced a successful launch of the initiative, filling all orders for plants through the program, thus creating a waitlist in case plants are unable to be picked up.
“Crises like the coronavirus pandemic often inspire a want for greater self-reliability, a more sustainable lifestyle, and to find ways that we can contribute by producing something of our own,” said Young, liaison to the Office of Sustainability. “The Plant Share Giveaway Program couldn’t come at a better time, as many of our residents want to avoid unnecessary trips to the supermarket or have a side project that they can tend to from home. Whether you’re a first-time gardener or a seasoned pro, this is a great opportunity to get started on your very own victory garden.”
Young says the hope is that more individuals can start to grow their own food and produce within their own homes or yards. Moving forward, the county may look to host a similar event later this year or build a different event around the “Victory Garden” model in an effort to help get others started.
“We might take a look at this and see if this can evolve or is this something that we can do again in the future,” Young said. “Maybe it can start to jumpstart the idea for people.”