Newark, New Jersey, has accumulated large amounts of vacant land and unused property space over the past few decades. Unfortunately, these areas have unofficially served as garbage disposals and dumping areas for a variety of debris. About a year and a half ago, Lot 50 on Grafton Avenue was considered one of those spaces.
Today, Lot 50, now dubbed “Jannah on Grafton,” serves as a productive community garden and social event hub. The concept of this garden was developed by the consulting firm Al-Munir LLC and is committed to providing affordable and healthy produce for approximately 20 local families. In addition to providing healthy food, Jannah on Grafton also doubles as a place for community open mic nights, youth-oriented employment programs, and educational forums related to sustainability and wellness. Jannah on Grafton has inspired and transformed the neighborhood in an uplifting way. When looking at the impact, this place has on the community, it’s hard to believe this didn’t exist three years ago.
This success story is a prime example of how placemaking can transform communities such as Newark. The term placemaking encompasses the process of collectively redesigning public spaces in ways that serve, reflect, and uplift the needs of community members. Placemaking allows the community to design their environment to reflect their culture(s), values, and interests. Community members aren’t just mere residents passively occupying a common geographic area through placemaking. Instead, they become creative shareholders in their environment and architects of unique public spaces. Through various cultural events, programs, landmarks, and initiatives, Placemaking increases overall communal well-being.
In the city of Newark, urban farming is increasingly becoming recognized as a successful placemaking initiative due to its overall positive effect on surrounding community members. In a city struggling with food insecurity, environmental degradation, and various chronic health issues related to diet and nutrition, urban farming is just what Newark needs.
Urban farming, the practice of growing, cultivating, and distributing food in urban areas, has been steadily gaining popularity in various cities over the past few years. Urban farms provide easier access to healthy food that is affordable and culturally relevant for communities. Additionally, they help mitigate urban-related environmental issues, such as city heat, stormwater run-off, and habitat fragmentation while improving the surrounding air, water, and soil quality. Through the City of Newark’s Adopt a Lot program, urban farming affords community members in Newark and other cities alike to take control of their health in different ways.
In terms of placemaking, urban farms in Newark serve as spaces for popular community events. As time has gone on, community gardens such as Rabbit Hole Farms, Jannah On Grafton, and Eden's Farm hosted youth educational programs, yoga and meditation classes, food and health drives. They also facilitated pot lucks, open mic nights, and other activities that have strengthened community bonds and relationships.
Al-Munir LLC focuses on creative placemaking as one of its primary focus areas. They are committed to advancing placemaking initiatives in Newark in partnership with the community. As Al-Munir grows, they plan to transform Newark through consciously designed public spaces. The future of Newark looks bright, with organizations such as these at the forefront of this movement.
Learn more about Al-Munir Farms here and support their ongoing work in the great city of Newark, New Jersey. Help Al-Munir Farms reach their fundraising goal for land acquisition here. Follow them on Instagram | Facebook
Jennifer Poroye is the writer-in-residence with Al-Munir Farms. Al-Munir works with us as an official community information partner. Together, we will publish stories on food insecurity, urban farming, and creative placemaking across the city of Newark, New Jersey.