Mercer Co. Extension moves into new offices
EWING TOWNSHIP — Rutgers’ Cooperative Extension of Mercer County has moved to new offices on Parkside Avenue here as of mid-February.
The expanded classroom space and meeting and seminar rooms and offices will assist farmers from throughout central New Jersey as well as backyard vegetable and fruit growers who have questions for a team of volunteer Master Gardeners.
“We hosted the Central Jersey Vegetable Growers’ Conference in February,” said Chad Ripberger, a 4-H agent and department head for Rutgers Cooperative Extension-Mercer County.
“We have a large 4-H program here,” he said, so the new space at 1440 Parkside Avenue is a welcome addition to existing resources, which, among most counties around the Garden State, are often stretched thin.
“The vegetable growers conference was a perfect example of what we are able to do now because we have space,” Ripberger said, noting the large classroom, “we held the main conference in the gym and we put in a really nice audio system in there as well, so we can host PowerPoints, slides, everything, and we’ve only been here a little over six weeks.”
“It’s nice to be able to do some of these meetings and not have to travel and haul stuff and constantly be loading and unloading,” he added.
The building, which is being only partially used by Mercer County’s Ag Extension Service, is the former site of the Mercer County Youth Detention Center.
Not surprisingly, there’s a large, 20 foot fence enclosing the entire backyard so unless someone leaves a fence gate open, deer damage will not be an issue here, as various plots of soil are devoted to different vegetable and fruit growing experiments and for instructional purposes.
The Mercer County Board of Agriculture and RCE Mercer County and Master Gardeners of Mercer County had been in fairly cramped offices on Spruce Street, next to the Trenton Farmers Market.
Since the offices were moved in mid-February, the new location has already hosted six gatherings with more than 100 people, Ripberger said.
Aside from the gym, the Parkside Avenue facility has three instructional spaces that can seat 64, 48 and 32 people, respectively.
The new facility also offers WiFi internet for ease of smart phone and laptop use.
“We now have our Master Gardeners in a separate office where people can come up and ask questions,” he said, noting there are more than 250 Certified Master Gardeners in Mercer County, which includes ag-friendly towns like Princeton, Hopewell Township and Pennington.
Mercer County spent about 12 months doing a total renovation of the space so that Mercer County Cooperative Extension and the Master Gardeners offices could move in smoothly to the new facility.
“We have a strong industry and our county Board of Ag is very active, and our farmers work well together,” Ripberger said.
The acre of lawn behind the building, enclosed by existing 20 foot fencing, will be most useful as it is transitioned over to plots of soil for growing fruits and vegetables.
“We’re going to have meadow with some trails, some raised bed gardening and it’s going to be a nice space for us back here,” he said.
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