Rutgers Master Gardeners Care for Historic Cherry Trees in Branch Brook Park

Cherry blossom time at Branch Brook Park in Newark, home to the largest collection of flowering cherry trees in the U.S.

Cherry blossom time at Branch Brook Park in Newark, home to the largest collection of flowering cherry trees in the U.S.

Editor’s Note: Two alumni have been instrumental in the care and maintenance of the remarkable cherry tree collection in Essex County. Paul Cowie is a consultant to the Branch Brook Park Alliance. He graduated in 1985 with a B.S. in Natural Resource Management with a concentration in Forestry. He cooperates with the Rutgers Master Gardeners of Essex County and their advisor Jan Zientek of Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Essex County. Zientek is himself an alum – a 1982 graduate with a B.S. in Forestry and Wildlife Biology. The story of their work is featured here.

The emergence of cherry blossoms is renowned in Japanese culture as representing the end of the winter, the beginning of new life and the start of the spring growing season. Throughout Japan, cherry blossom festivals are celebrated under the trees with singing, dancing and elaborate tea ceremonies. While profuse and beautiful, cherry blossoms are relatively short lived. It is said that the Japanese use the example of the short lifespan of the cherry blossoms that vividly burst into life and then proudly whither to symbolically reflect on, and as a metaphor for, their lives. [Read more...]

A Day in the Life of Extension

By Nick Polanin, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Somerset County Agricultural Agent

The year 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Smith-Lever Act which officially created the national Cooperative Extension System. Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) Cooperative Extension helps the diverse population of New Jersey adapt to a rapidly changing society and improve their lives and communities through an educational process that uses science-based knowledge. Through science-based educational programs, Rutgers Cooperative Extension truly enhances the quality of life for residents of New Jersey and brings the wealth of knowledge of the state university to local communities. [Read more...]

Make the World Better through Rutgers Environmental Steward Training

Rutgers Environmental Stewards Class of 2013

Imagine being able to discuss climate change with the State Climatologist or learn about New Jersey’s geology from the people who map it.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to hear how New Jersey’s environmental regulations get enforced from a person who actually does the enforcement? How about learning about the role of soils in the environment from the person who runs Rutgers’ Soil Testing lab? These are some of the opportunities that are available to enrollees in the 2014 Rutgers Environmental Steward Volunteer Training Program. Would you like to learn how local environmental decisions get made from the head of the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions or how land preservation can be done most effectively from some of the leading players in land preservation in New Jersey? [Read more...]

Rutgers Machine Shop is Back in Business

Machinist Mike Applegate boring a large hole in a steel rod using a lathe. Photo by Jack Rabin

Tucked away in a secluded spot off College Farm Road on the George H. Cook Campus, the Rutgers Machine Shop, which is administered by the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, has been a fixture on campus for over 60 years. After a hiatus of about a year, the shop is again up and running, serving Rutgers faculty, staff and graduate students’ needs by fabricating, modifying and repairing research equipment.

Director of Greenhouse Operations Joseph Florentine, who manages the shop, is proud of the shop’s attention to detail and the needs of the client. “We work with the customer to develop and refine the project to meet their needs. Other machine shops will not do this and will only work from blueprints. Their costs are also much higher.”

Support staff for the Machine Shop includes machinist Mike Applegate and greenhouse staff David Lear and Jeff Akers. The shop’s clientele runs the gamut of research departments on all the New Brunswick campuses, from engineering, biomedical to ag engineering. “I am a customer of the machine shop, too. I maintain six research greenhouse facilities and having the machine shop fabricate repair parts has saved my operations time and thousands of dollars,” says Florentine. [Read more...]

What’s in Season from the Garden State: Orange is the New Black Friday

A Hunterdon County farm offers plenty of pumpkins, gourds, mums and cornstalks to their agritourism customers. Photo by Jack Rabin.

VonThun Farms of Monmouth Junction, NJ, is a regular vendor at the Highland Park Community Farmer’s Market every season. As the days grow crisp and fall is in the air, VonThun’s end their participation in the community market, even though the market is open for many more weeks. Did they run out of produce and are ready to put the farm to bed for the winter? Quite the contrary. VonThun’s wrap up their off-farm venues so all hands are on deck for what can only be considered a fall extravaganza at the farm. VonThun’s is just one of many New Jersey farms that feature agritourism events that draw huge crowds to their farm. [Read more...]