Fostering self-reliant families and healthy, sustainable communities

August 2015

Dear Friends,


The research is increasingly clear, but it's not news to us: a green, more natural environment affects our physical and mental health and the health of our communities.


This is particularly true in cities. Over the decades, Isles has partnered with communities to create green, safe spaces - parks, gardens and buildings - that are fun, productive, energy-efficient, and natural.


This newsletter highlights some of our place-making work in the Trenton region, but our work goes beyond the on-the-ground development described here.  


Isles is interested in learning and teaching others about, "what works and why?" As a result, in September, I will set aside 50% of my time to be a one-year visiting professor at Princeton University's Engineering School to teach entrepreneurship from a "social profit" perspective.

John Hart, Isles Chief Operating Officer, will handle some of my CEO responsibilities, and Isles' Julia Taylor will assume some COO-like functions. Look for upcoming e-newsletter messages from them, as well as other guest writers. 

This is how we bring our agenda to a wider audience, so we need your help and friendship more than ever!

Thanks for being there.


In community,


Marty Johnson 


P.S. Hope you like the new design! 

Community members volunteer in local 
park as part of Clean & Green 

Isles' new Clean & Green service cleans up, beautifies, and maintains vacant lots and parks in Trenton. Clean & Green kicked off in June, and already five parks and more than 35 lots have been addressed in the Trenton Historic Development Collaborative (THDC) and East Trenton Collaborative (ETC) neighborhoods. In both neighborhoods, Clean & Green responds directly to resident-identified needs. 


Clean & Green is also a quick, visible, and cost effective response to the vacant property survey Isles completed with the Trenton Neighborhood Restoration Campaign in summer 2014, which identified 22% of all properties in the city as vacant. The long term goals of Clean & Green go beyond property maintenance to include increasing resident perceptions of safety, access to and use of open space and recreational opportunities, and local job creation. 


Isles' Clean & Green crew, three Trenton residents with strong ties to the THDC and ETC areas, will engage and train resident volunteers to care for parks and lots. Isles also provides technical and material assistance to grassroots organizations in the THDC neighborhood that are carrying out complementary activities funded through our Small Grants Program. Both Clean & Green and the Small Grants Program are supported by the New Jersey Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit Program. 

Trainees of 2015 season at the Incubator Garden

Isles' Incubator Garden, adjacent to our Tucker Street garden, offers hands-on training in urban agriculture to increase the number of experienced gardeners in the city. The garden provides 12 raised plots for people seeking personalized training in horticulture and leadership.

Ten trainees of the inaugural 2014 season planted their own gardens with the help of Isles' staff and, after completing the growing year, moved on to develop new gardens, bolster membership of older gardens, or volunteer at school gardens.


"Gardens are places for community, and everyone can learn," said Alex, a trainee of the 2014 season. "There is great power in sharing our education." 


Building off this success, Isles is now in the midst of its second year of Incubator Garden training. This year, 11 trainees have completed five core workshops on topics such as soil & plant health, composting, and organic management, and are now harvesting their produce. Trainees have also participated in workshops at Duke Farms and spent a Saturday morning visiting other gardens and gardeners in the Isles Garden Support Network.


"Gardening is about experimentation," said Incubator Garden coordinator Jim Simon. "One trainee wanted to defy gravity and grow watermelon up a trellis, so we helped her find a way to make it work. There's no clear right or wrong way to garden, we just help people find their own way."

The Carriage House on Stockton Street in the Old Trenton Neighborhood
Isles will soon complete the rehabilitation of a formerly vacant carriage house located in the Old Trenton Neighborhood (OTN). We are excited to announce that the Trenton Community A-Team will be moving into the building and operating it as a community arts facility. 


The A-Team is a grassroots arts organization serving more than 50 local artists, which has operated out of the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) for the past 20 years. Artists will meet and work in the newly refurbished space, and will host community art events, gallery shows, and more. 


The rehabilitation of this building and the A-Team's future presence in OTN are important steps in the implementation of the resident-led revitalization of the neighborhood. This work is supported by the New Jersey Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit Program and New Jersey Manufacturers.

Isles in the NewsInthenews
Isles joins Greenwood Avenue Farmers Market