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US (NJ): Residents learning how to grow and sell their own food

In what used to be a cavernous Children's Place clothing store, across the street from Caesars casino in Atlantic City, four residents take turns sticking their hands in a bucket full of wet soil, food scraps, live worms and their "castings." (That's a euphemism for poop!) But these brave souls aren't competing in Fear Factor, they're just learning how to farm: The four are participants in a newly launched, farming and business initiative created by C.R.O.P.S. (Communities Revolutionizing Open Public Spaces), a nonprofit that's focused on eradicating food insecurity in South Jersey.

It's aim? To "install a food system" in Atlantic City — the second highest of 50 Food Desert Communities ranked by the state. The three-year program, called the UCAN (Urban Coastal Agriculture Network) Farming Program, is funded by the New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority. The state agency, through a one-year grant agreement "in a reimbursement format," awarded C.R.O.P.S. with $300,000 to run it.

At the nonprofit's 6,000-square-foot indoor farm, event space, and store in Tanger Outlets, the new farmers who attend classes there twice a month are immersed in what's clearly a very hands-on training, where they're learning all about worm composting — why it's so helpful for the growth of plants, fruits, and vegetables, and how to get started building a compost bin. (Tip: You're gonna need shredded newspaper to use as bedding, so if you're reading this in print and want to start composting, you're welcome.)

Throughout the program, she and four other participants will learn a range of farming techniques, and will grow produce at an indoor hydroponic farming system at the C.R.O.P.S. store, and come springtime, in an outdoor farm they'll build together and share. But they'll also get help creating a business plan and receive training in marketing, bookkeeping, and many of the other financial aspects involved in operating a farming or food-related business.

Read the entire article at NJ Advance Media

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