Isles Community Gardens - Trenton, NJ

In 1981, a Princeton University undergraduate student, Marty Johnson, with some classmates and faculty, took an idea from a senior thesis -- reclaim vacant and abandoned urban lots as community gardens -- and sought to implement it in nearby Trenton. They formed a non-profit which they named Isles, evoking the island oasis quality they envisioned the community gardens would have in the inner city, and set about recruiting community volunteers to help them create and maintain the gardens.

The gardens are meant to be gardens in the truest sense, places where inner city residents can go to escape the blight which surrounds them on all sides. Isles envisioned a practical side to the gardens too, with each containing a vegetable garden too. The produce from these gardens provided a source of fresh vegetables which was rare in poor sections of Trenton, and also provided a sense of accomplishment to those who tended and harvested them.

In 2008, more than 30 community gardens that Isles supports in Trenton raised thousands pounds of fresh produce that improved diets and strengthened finances for more than 3,000 residents. Isles has expanded into other areas seeking to improve the lives of urban residents, including affordable housing and job skills training, but its urban gardens are still one of its most visible and important legacies.