VETS Program

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RutgersVETS_logoStaff and faculty from Rutgers Cooperative Extension developed a program to educate VETS program trainees in two ways:

  • Educational classes led by university and industry experts in specialties like greenhouse management, landscaping, aquaponics and hydroponics; and
  • Hands-on experience at gardens and parks in the City of Newark and other communities in Essex County.

Educational Classes

Five days a week, trainees come to the VETS facility in Newark and spend more than a thousand hours throughout the course of the program learning from experts about:

  • History of the Passaic River
  • Botany
  • Entomology
  • Soil chemistry/health
  • Stormwater management
  • Hydroponics
  • Greenhouse management, operation and maintenance
  • Produce nutrition
  • Rainwater harvesting
  • Permeable pavement installation
  • Pest management
  • Weed management
  • Disease  management
  • Turf management
  • Mulching and landscape maintenance
  • Communicating with the fishing community
  • Small business management planning

Trainees also learn about Rutgers University’s research on heirloom tomatoes at the Rutgers’ Snyder Research Farm in Hunterdon County.

The 2014 class visited Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park to learn the history of the Lower Passaic River.

Hands-On Experience

Trainees in the program have the opportunity to take their classroom education into the field. In the past, trainees have participated in a number of projects in Newark and throughout Essex County to improve local parks and provide both active and passive recreation opportunities for residents.


The 2015 class improved the irrigation system and built flower beds for the Kearny Community Garden, replanted and replaced dying trees and shrubs, built flower beds and reseeded grass on a property owned by the Passaic River Coalition in Lyndhurst, and provided maintenance for the Newark community garden, and other green infrastructure projects along the Lower Passaic River.


The 2014 class cultivated a community garden from a nearby vacant City of Newark lot, installed an irrigation system at the Presby Memorial Iris Garden, planted new dogwood trees in Brookdale Park, pruned trees in Branch Brook Park and maintained a Little League baseball field in Little Ferry.

Download the Rutgers VETS brochure (pdf)