The Green House Project: Sustainable Agriculture in Urban Areas

2002 Annual Report for LNE99-128

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1999: $122,315.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2003
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $266,891.00
Region: Northeast
State: New Jersey
Project Leader:
Ralph Coolman
Rutgers University

The Green House Project: Sustainable Agriculture in Urban Areas


The Green House Project believes participatory education is a key to keeping a healthy agricultural presence within our urban and suburban communities. Our efforts focused on three fronts. This past year we developed a model year-round production system on Rutgers University Cook College campus targeted at local, urban markets. We have integrated this effort with local elementary, university, and adult educators. To date, we have reached over 400 people with our efforts to develop a new urban consumer who recognizes the value of a thriving farm community. We are developing a production manual for this system to provide training and materials to those responsible for extension and outreach to present and future farmers.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The Green House Project believes that participatory education coupled with research and evaluation is a key to putting agriculture back into urban and suburban areas. To meet this goal, Elliot Coleman’s passive solar greenhouse design is used to produce fresh organic vegetables year-round at two locations. The Green House Project addresses the difficult task of integrating sustainable agriculture into the urban environment through education efforts targeted at the next generation of urban citizens.

Our objectives are to:

Create two passive solar greenhouse sites that demonstrate to local farmers the economic potential of marketing to local residents;

Integrate demonstration sites into local grade school, high school, university and adult training programs;

Provide training and materials to those responsible for continuing education of present and future farmers; and

Evaluate the potential of solar greenhouse technologies as an alternative production system for the northeast region.


Development of a model year-round production system in the second year of The Green House Project resulted in completion of two enclosed 30’ x 48’ greenhouses, the production of cold-hardy crops (braising mix, spinach, spicy salad mix, oriental salad mix, greens salad mix, upland cress, mache greens, arugula, mustard greens, tatsoi, red Russian kale, and mibuna) from September to March, the production of heat-loving crops (tomatoes, melons, eggplant, and peppers) from March to August, the initial development of a 20,000 square foot demonstration site planted with raspberries, elderberries, sage, catnip, wormwood, hibiscus, asparagus, Bittermellon, chamomile, mint, sorrel, chervil, chives, Echinacea, lemon grass, oregano, thyme, tarragon, basil, rosemary, calendula, marigold, violets, northern sea oats, Indian grass, summer savory, onions, tomatoes, melons, peppers, eggplants, and cucumbers, and the development of an irrigation system for each greenhouse.

Education efforts focus on several fronts resulted in four culinary arts graduating classes with a total of 28 students all of whom had starting positions in the local food industry, the integration of written curriculum in K-2 class at Greater Brunswick Charter School, instruction on urban agriculture and season extension in two courses at Rutgers University with an enrollment of 37, continued development of an intern training program with local organic farmers, a workshop on season extension attended by five local farm interns, a workshop with over 36 students from the University of Puerto Rico on organic crop production in temperate regions, a workshop for over 35 high school students, an evening workshop season extension and sustainable cuisine attended by 25 people, and, finally, the development of NOFA-NJ Winter Conference on season extension attended by over 250 people from the northeast region.

Assessment of this project is ongoing. We are currently developing growth and production curves for cold-hardy crops grown during the winter months. Data collected includes: 1) growth rates at different planting dates, 2) germination rates, 3) climatic information, 4) expected harvests and 5) market prices for the New Jersey area.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The second year of The Green House Project has had a direct impact on the New Brunswick community. A total of 182 students at all levels of training have taken formal instruction on urban agriculture, season extension, and organic food production. Our workshops have exposed another 275 people to the importance of urban agriculture in the urban/suburban setting. Efforts at market development progressed well this year. We are currently developing an extensive research plan for new crop with Chef Pierre of Stage Left in New Brunswick.


Lisanne Finston

Executive Director
Elijah’s Promise Soup Kitchen
Michael W. Hamm

Chair, Department of Nutritional Science
Rutgers University
Megan McGlinchy

Statewide Youth Farmstand Project Coordinator
Grace Agnello

Nutrition Educator
New Jersey Urban Ecology Program
Michael Rassweiler

North Slope Farm
Karen Anderson

Executive Director
Pearl Thompson

Chef Instructor
Promise Jobs: Culinary Arts Training Program