Now over 400 acres, the St. Michaels property, which was preserved in 2010 and expanded in 2017, is an expanse of farm fields and forests on the edge of Hopewell Borough. From many parts of this preserve the visitor has long views, lending the preserve a wonderful expansiveness which promotes a sense of well-being in anyone who walks its many farm roads and paths. From 1896 until 1973 this was the home of St. Michael’s Orphanage and Industrial School which was operated by the Catholic Diocese of Trenton. After the orphanage was closed, the building where the children lived and went to school was torn down and most of the land was leased to a local farmer. Before the diocese divested themselves of the property through development they offered one last chance for preservation if D&R Greenway could raise the funds to purchase the property. Over $11 million was raised, and in 2010 D&R Greenway succeeded in purchasing the land through a public/private partnership. It is now preserved as open space forever.
This audio trail is designed to help you give children ways to find a home in nature. Children for whom nature is a home have a place where they feel free to explore, to express themselves and to learn about the creatures, birds, rocks and water that share our planet. Explore the tour below!
St. Michaels Community Victory Gardens
in Full Bloom!
Come take a walk and enjoy the big view of our
socially-distanced garden plots!
Gardener Lorraine McCune (above), has taken two plots with her granddaughter, Brielle. Traveling to St. Michaels from New Brunswick, Lorraine is returning to gardening after many years. Her gardens are producing lettuce, squash, and flowers.
Why Community Gardens Now
D&R Greenway this year launched its new Community Victory Gardens at St. Michaels Farm Preserve in response to the global health crisis.
Victory Gardens got their start in WWI. In 1917 before the US entered the war, Charles Lathrop Pack initiated the Victory Garden effort to “sow the seeds of Victory” and grow food to send to US allies. Once we were involved in the War, War Gardens, soon to be termed Victory Gardens, were touted in US patriotic propaganda efforts. The idea was to boost morale, much like today, and provide supplementation to a rationed food supply as commercial crops were diverted to feeding the soldiers. When WWII broke out the idea was revived and proved to be very popular.
The Community Victory Gardens located on a 415-acre Hopewell preserve began growing produce to help provide nearby residents with healthy food options and support struggling residents in need.
St. Michaels Farm Preserve, part of the D&R Greenway Land Trust, is home to the victory gardens that have been thought about since the Hopewell preserve was created 10 years ago.
Local farmers approached the president and CEO of D&R Greenway Linda Mead about the gardens.
“A few of us were talking earlier this year about how the time had come for a community garden,” farm manager Bill Flemer said in a press release. “With the pandemic keeping people at home, seeking healthy ways to eat and a need for ‘community,’ local organic farmers Bob and Steffi Harris and I approached Linda Mead about our idea.”
“We are all hungry for a sense of belonging, being outdoors and living healthy right now,” Mead said in a press release. “These times hearken back to the Great Depression, when victory gardens provided important sustenance for those who lost jobs or were on limited income, strapped for food. I especially liked the suggestion to include ‘Charity Plots’ where gardeners donate plants, time and harvest to support those in need.”
The 32 plots are spaced far apart to enable people to safely garden with social distance, while still enjoying the fellowship of gardening together.
Six plots are for charity, with produce to be distributed to needy families.
The gardens and their produce can be a source of food during times of economic uncertainty, but planting and caring for the gardens also offer gardeners a chance to become more self-sufficient and be outside during a time when social distancing is encouraged.
“A silver lining of the pandemic is that people are re-thinking their relationship with food and food sources.
D&R Greenway hopes that we’ll see a long-term trend toward eating organic and locally grown food that is better for our health, and for our environment.”
“The word ‘community’ is central to this project. We see new friendships forming, and we have begun to organize virtual social activities to foster connection. Building community around outdoor activity and healthy food is an important antidote for these challenging times.”
– Linda Mead, D&R Greenway President & CEO
The site of D&R Greenway’s new Community Victory Gardens once served as a farm to provide food for children who lived at the St. Michaels Orphanage that stood there through World War I and World War II.
The preserve is open to the public for visits while remembering to keep to social distancing guidelines.
A zinnia flower in bloom at the community gardens.
This gardener is using wood chips and old newspapers for weed control.