Gardens Can Transform Cities and Create Jobs

Steve Adubato talks to Mike Devlin, Executive Director of the Camden Children's Garden and President of the Camden City Garden Club, who explains how a network of gardens can transform a city and create jobs.

#1917 11/4/2016






"We're pleased to be joined by Mike Devlin, executive director, Camden Children's Garden, and also president, Camden City Garden Club. Good to see you Mike. Good to see you Steve. Thanks very much for having us here. Talk to us about gardening in Camden. Well, gardening is alive and well in Camden, the Garden Club has been around for over thirty years, we had the good fortune of William Penn Foundation coming to Camden back in the mid 80's, and wanting somebody to start a community garden program. And at the time, I worked for Joe Roberts, who was Freeholder director at the time, former assemblyman, and I wrote a grant on behalf of the county and the city, and we got it. Hmm. And we started community gardening at the time and we've evolved into education programs, youth job training programs, Governor Christine Whitman invented that at a press conference one time spontaneously, and we built the Children's Garden seventeen years ago on city owned land on the waterfront as a tourist destination. You've been recognized nationally? Yes we have. We've gotten some awards from both President Bushes, father and son, and Michelle Obama included us in her book :American Grown" which was very nice. You know, these young people who get involved in the garden, what do they take away from it? They do well. We've had well over three hundred teenagers and young adults come to work for us, and only one dropped out of high school. Is that right? In a city where they often report sixty percent don't finish high school. Why is that? Why do you keep them? There's a lot of challenges to living in Camden. There's not many job opportunities. We operate the garden and our programs like a family. We have twelve to fifteen youth on the payroll at any one time, and they work full time in the Summer, part time while they're going to school. Hmm. If they drop out of high school, they can't stay, and they know that. So they have to stay in high school, we want to get them that far, we give them experiences that will hopefully lead them to college. We have several teachers working there. I myself, as a kid, thought about dropping out of high school, but I got into a plumber's apprenticeship, and we treat our programs as apprenticeships. We try and teach trades to connect to the county vocational school where we have a... You're involved with the schools? Yes we are. Very much. By the way, that's you as a kid? So... that's me. Gardening? In Bergenfield. Get out of here! In 1954. Bergenfield up in Bergen County..."