Princeton University’s Pace Center for Civic Engagement coordinates small-group experiences during their first-year student orientation called Community Action. This is a way for incoming students to get an introduction to the community at Princeton and in the surrounding areas. Students have an opportunity to learn first-hand about what it means to be a part of a community, how to grapple with complex societal questions, and develop a connection to their personal values.

For the second year in a row, Community Action groups have connected with the Foodshed Alliance to learn about the work the organization does. This year, 60 students came up to the Andover area on Tuesday, August 30. On this beautiful morning, 30 of the volunteers went with LocalShare to glean tomatoes and corn from Circle Brook Farm. The other 30 volunteers went to the SAgE (Sustainable Agriculture Enterprises) farm to clean up common areas, learn about soil ecology and conservation, help resident farmer Jennifer Ann Major of All Things Good spread compost and woodchips, and visit with USA Agro Farm’s goats!

All of the volunteers were engaged, curious, and inquisitive. In the two hours they spent volunteering, they accomplished an astounding amount of work! At SAgE, students helped Brian Ensminger, Foodshed Alliance’s Conservation Specialist, clear more than two full 42-gallon contractor bags of deteriorating plastic sheeting used to suppress weeds from the conservation plot we are working towards restoring. Brian explained how farm soil that is abandoned and compacted starts a succession process leading to perennial weeds that make it difficult to support crops. They discussed soil samples taken from this area for nutrient and biological analysis that will determine what is going on in the soil currently and then compare that to what we hope to build through fall, spring, and summer cover crops. Ultimately, all of this will sequester carbon into the soil, build the organic matter, and change the concentration of bacteria-dominated soil to something more fungal-based that is capable of supporting no-till crop production.

At Circle Brook Farm with LocalShare, students learned about the increasing demand that food pantries are facing this year, as well as how current drought conditions have made it difficult for farms to even have surplus, let alone donate it. As the students worked with the LocalShare team, they certainly developed a deeper connection to the fresh food they harvested, and a sense of pride knowing their hard work that morning would be feeding people in need. Together, in the two hours, Princeton’s Community Action group and LocalShare team gleaned 426 pounds of corn and tomatoes! All of the produce was distributed between local food pantries and a free produce pop-up market that afternoon.

Thank you so much to Princeton’s Pace Center for Civic Engagement’s Community Action group for coming out to learn about Foodshed Alliance’s programs and get involved in strengthening the NJ food system!

For more information about regular gleanings and other volunteer opportunities with LocalShare, visit their website, and find them on Facebook & Instagram. If you are looking for a fun and interesting bonding and educational experience for your school, church, company, family, Scout troop, or any other group – contact the LocalShare team to get more information and coordinate a group gleaning! Christine@FoodshedAlliance.org.

To learn more about the SAgE (Sustainable Agriculture Enterprises) program, visit the website. If you are interested in volunteering with the SAgE program – please contact Eric@FoodshedAlliance.org. Find the mentioned SAgE Farmers on Facebook: All Things Good and USA Agro Farm.

For more information on Princeton’s Pace Center for Civic Engagement’s Community Action Initiative: https://pace.princeton.edu/get-involved/pace-center-programs/community-action
Civic Engagement Facebook & Instagram