Beauty in Bergen

Allendale's Celery Farm and the Saddle River Garden Club

The Celery Farm

The Celery Farm in Allendale immerses one in the sounds of nature...of bird calls as well as the slosh of the mud beneath your boots.

As a working celery and onion farm during World War II, the operation folded and brought forth talk of developing the 107 acres for housing or ball fields.

However, a local naturalist named Stiles Thomas started doing the groundwork to save and preserve the freshwater wetland in the 1950s. The town bought the land in 1981, and Stiles became the first Marsh Warden. The Fyke Nature Association and the Borough of Allendale work to preserve the Celery Farm, along with Marsh Warden Mike Limatola.

Jim Wright, Deputy Marsh Warden, notes the foresight Thomas had in positively impacting the residents’ quality of life. “You tend to take places like this for granted; they are becoming increasingly rare,” says Jim.

Surprisingly, the two most detrimental factors in the property’s preservation are deer overpopulation and invasive plant species. The deer eat the native species and the invasive species take over, resulting in the loss of flowers and plants, many of which attract all types of butterflies and moths. The deer eat the seedlings of native trees, so the woods cannot regenerate. A deer “exclosure” was built surrounding a parcel of land excluding the deer and raising awareness of what the preserve looked like in its original state.

The preserve attracts many avid bird watchers. Over 250 species of birds have been identified by sightings at the Celery Farm which can be viewed at their Ebird hotspot:

“This is where people start falling in love with birds and nature. It's relaxing to be here,“ says Jim.

Teaching the Little Sprouts

Joanne Kakaty and Karen Williamson are digging in to help the next generation learn to love gardening. As president and vice-president of the Saddle River Garden Club respectively, Joanne and Karen have a dedication to beautifying their community and sharing their love of the environment with children.

Last fall, they hosted classes for kids at both Wandell School in Saddle River and at Reynolds School in Upper Saddle River. Children learned how to plant daffodil bulbs and are eagerly awaiting the first sprouts to pop up with bursts of yellow blooms.

They also created birdfeeder pinecones to hang in trees attracting cardinals, chickadees and blue jays. “We like to create an awareness of all the different types of birds out there,” says Karen.

More projects are on tap for the spring semester. “It’s gratifying to see the kids have a good time. Some of them have never put their hands in the dirt before!” says Karen. 

“The Club has been in existence since 1926, when this was all farmland,” says Karen. “We enjoy the aspect of getting the kids involved so that they learn to love gardening. My grandmother got me started on planting flowers, and now I am teaching my grandchildren.”

The group’s fundraising efforts include plant sales that support their speaker program as well as a $1500 scholarship for a high school student pursuing studies in an environmentally-focused field.

The spring sale is going on now. Plants may be pre-ordered and then picked up on Thursday, May 14 by contacting Joanne at the email address below. Offered for sale are all kinds of perennials, annuals, vegetables, hanging baskets and planters.

 “We are hoping that by planting and getting their hands dirty, the kids enjoy what they have done that day,” says Joanne. “It’s good to get outside and get into nature.”

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