Mar 25

Newark Article

Newark – Spring is Planting Season, but Giving Season for Rutgers Vets is Year Round



Mar 23

Spring is Planting Season But Giving Season For Rutgers VETS is Year Round


Maryanna JohnWilliford-Ellis Daniels-Rashad MadyunRashad Madyun and volunteer Faust Linetti Carry Donations to Willing Heart


Program Donated more than 2,000 Vegetables to Newark Community Food Bank since 2015

NEWARK, NJ – March 23, 2016 – While the 2015 class of the Rutgers Veterans Environmental and Technology Solutions (VETS) program graduated in December and the ground outside isn’t ready yet for spring planting, some of the program’s graduates worked through the cold months of winter to make sure those at the Willing Heart Community Center always had fresh vegetables.

Rashad Madyun, a U.S. veteran and graduate of the VETS 2015 class, is interested in taking the business and marketing skills he learned in the program to start his own online marketing firm.

Under the direction of Rodney Spencer, the program assistant and 2014 VETS graduate, Rashad continued to hone his skills in aquaponics and horticulture in the program’s greenhouse all winter long to the benefit of Willing Heart Community Care Center and its recipients.

In 2015, the Rutgers VETS program donated more than 1,900 vegetables weighing 500 pounds to the Willing Heart Community Care Center through weekly drop offs. The veterans also raised and donated hundreds of seedlings, so Willing Heart patrons can grow their own tomatoes and herbs.

The Willing Heart Community Care Center appreciates the donations.  “Programs like Rutgers VETS are exactly what our City needs,” said Maryanna Williford, program director of the Willing Heart Community Care Center. “They are not only helping to train our City’s veterans with skills, but they also stress getting involved in the community.”

The Willing Heart Community Care Center and the VETS program are neighbors at 555 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, due to the generosity and support of the Metropolitan Resurrection Community Development Corporation, an arm of the Metropolitan Baptist Church.

Dr. Amy Rowe, VETS co-director, noted “The classroom portion of the VETS program provides unemployed veterans with the skills they need to get back to work, but the hands-on field experience has come through partnerships and engagement with the community. The trainees work to revitalize distressed neighborhoods through the installation of community gardens, landscape beautification, and by teaching the citizens of Newark how to eat healthy and grow their own food.”

The fresh produce is grown by trainees in the greenhouse all year long, but the VETS program also manages a community garden down the street from the Center that will provide additional vegetables once the growing season starts.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, Willing Heart’s food pantry is open to eligible members of the community. The vegetables are organized by Willing Heart volunteer staff and added to grocery bags full of fresh and healthy foods. Each week, hundreds of Newark citizens come to the community center to obtain food packages, a hot meal, or clothing.

The VETS program is currently recruiting veterans from Essex County for its 2016 class. For more information, please visit


About Rutgers VETS

The Rutgers Veterans Environmental Technology and Solutions (VETS) program mission is to improve the lives of unemployed veterans in Newark, NJ, and to work with them to protect the Lower Passaic River, and its watershed. The program was established in 2014, as a collaboration between Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Essex County, Metropolitan Resurrection Community Development Corporation (MRCDC) and Lower Passaic River Study Area Cooperating Parties Group (CPG). For more information about Rutgers VETS, please visit the website: or the Facebook page:


About Willing Heart

The Willing Heart Community Care Center is committed to Central Ward and Greater Newark communities of New Jersey. The programs are based on the belief that everyone wants to live, learn and laugh. Staff is committed to nurturing individuals through a vibrant, comprehensive curriculum, serving the community through many creative ventures. For more information about Willing Heart, please visit the website at:


Mar 21

North – Program trains veterans for Green careers, gives back to towns

North – Program Trains Veterans in Green Careers, Gives Back to Towns

Mar 01

Join the 2016 VETS Class

Rutgers VETS is an intensive certification program, which trains participants in sustainable landscaping, horticulture and entrepreneurship. Participants receive an educational stipend along with training from Rutgers faculty and staff, supplemental hands-on experience, field trips and networking with local industry leaders.

In its first two years, the Rutgers VETS program has provided 27 Newark and Essex County veteran trainees with more than 1,000 hours of training in green infrastructure, sustainable environment practices and business and entrepreneurial skills.

Over the next few months, Rutgers VETS is seeking to engage another 15 local veterans to comprise the 2016 class, starting in May 2016.

Eligibility and Expectations for Position in 2016 VETS Class

  • Be a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Participate in hands-on work and activities
  • Contribute to in-class discussions
  • Read class materials and complete assignments
  • Become certified NJ pesticide and fertilizer applicators
  • Be physically able to participate in field work

Our program has already helped VETS graduates to obtain industry-valued credentials, start new careers or continue their education at higher education institutions. Please consider submitting an application if you fit the eligibility and expectations.

Please contact Amy Rowe directly at: (908) 235-1168 or to request an application or if you want to learn more.

Aug 23

What’s Happening This Week – August 23, 2015

This has been another busy week for the Rutgers VETS program. We have been running split shifts in an attempt to meet those who might be fishing the Passaic River during early morning and early to mid-evening hours to tell them about the dangers of the lower Passaic River fish. Teams have been out every day last week.
Veterans have been working on individual projects such as developing irrigation techniques, developing low-cost, sustainable sources of food for the fish in our Aquaponic system, managing community outreach projects like the “Let’s Grow Newark” event, working on landscaping makeovers for senior citizens.
Vets recently wrapped up the last of the summer session with the 4-H Urban Farmer’s Club. The young people had the opportunity to advise the Vets on how the program could be improved. The 4-H members want longer sessions, they want to visit other gardening related locations, they want more hands-on activities; those present all said they would invite friends and will return for next year’s program.



Aug 23

Rutgers VETS In The News – August 2015

A rundown of recent news articles and items related to the Rutgers VETS program, its participants and graduates.

Rutgers VETS Continue the Mission to Serve August 2015
Newark, Inc. (August 2015)

Rutgers VETS Program Invites Community to “Let’s Grow Newark” Festival July 25
Press Release (July 2015)

VIDEO: Growing New Jobs in Newark for Veterans
NJTV (Mary 2015)

VETS Earned their Green and Blue Stripes through Rutgers 
The Gardener News (May 2015)

In a slow economy, unemployed veterans in New Jersey can benefit from job training and knowledge that can help them establish their own businesses, when others aren’t hiring. Through a partnership coordinated by Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE) of Essex County, unemployed New Jersey veterans have been trained through a green job skills program focused on sustainable landscaping, urban agriculture, stormwater management and aquaponics. The Rutgers Veterans Environmental Technology and Solutions (Rutgers VETS) program encompasses developing these skills within an entrepreneurial framework.
Read more…

Rutgers VETS Program Graduates Inaugural Class
Rutgers Newsroom (March 23, 2015)

It was a proud moment at the Willing Heart Community Care Center in Newark, NJ, on March 3, where 12 local veterans graduated as the inaugural class of the Rutgers Veterans Environmental Technology and Solutions (VETS) program.
Read more…

VIDEO: Program helps train Vets to become small business owners
Fox News (Nov. 11, 2014)

Last Import - 17 of 37Rutgers program helps vets learn green skills
The Star-Ledger (Sept. 14, 2014)

“That little purple tomato they grew, man, that was delicious,” said Otis Knight, who lives near a lot Newark where a group of veterans are being trained in the art of gardening. Knight and other neighbors of the large community garden along the 300 block of Martin Luther King Boulevard, sometimes share the harvest.
Read more…

Helping Struggling Veterans
NJTV (Aug. 28, 2014)

A Rutgers program in Newark is doing its part to make sure Garden State veterans are well taken care of have skills from the garden. Desert Storm vet Sonja Dabney talks tomatoes and taking advantage of the Rutgers Urban Gardening Program that teaches vets horticulture.
Read more…

Jun 30

What’s Happening This Week – 3/31/2016


Question: How can I apply to join the Rutgers VETS Program? IMG_1437

Answer: Call 973-732-2383 and leave your contact phone number, mailing address or email (spell it out) on the voice mail or just fill out the Contact Form on this website.

We learn, we do, we practice and perfect. At the Rutgers VETS program our time is divided between sustainable agriculture training, hands-on application,  entrepreneurship training, greenhouse maintenance, aquaponics and hydroponics training, raised bed and container gardening, organic growing techniques, landscaping, and more. We support community gardening projects; we help seniors with gardening and landscaping on their property, we help with special projects at Branch Brook and other parks; we donate produce to a local food pantry and we will be working with a local 4H chapter at the VETS Community Garden. Whewww! We do all that and manage our Fish Exchange Program with those who fish on the Passaic River. Please check elsewhere on this site for details about the Fish Exchange Program.

Latest activity or profile of a graduate of the VETS program, or active participant.