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By LISA READIE MAYER

BACKYARD FARMING A “GROWING” TREND IN THE GARDEN STATE Bye, bye begonias. Adios azaleas. More and more homeowners are converting their ornamental landscaping, flower beds and lawns into edible gardens. According to the 2017 National Gardening Survey market research study, the food-gardening industry grew by $1 billion in sales over the last five years, and one-third of U.S. households are now growing food at home. Inspired by the farm-to-table local-food movement, a longing to connect to nature, and a desire for healthy, nutrient-dense food, people are planting organic vegetables, herbs and fruit trees at home. While many of today’s backyard farmers are do-it-yourselfers, busy, time-stressed families often prefer the “do-it-for-me” approach, hiring professionals like Renee Mongiovi to design, install, and maintain their gardens. About 10 years ago, Renee ditched her high-pressure corporate job to start Oasis Backyard Farms in Morganville. She created and maintained organic vegetable gardens for 12 clients her first year in business, toting a rototiller and bags of soil around in the trunk of her Jaguar, a leftover luxury from her corporate days. By year two, the business had nearly doubled; after 10 years Renee estimates she has installed more than 500 backyard gardens throughout Monmouth County, including Cousins’ Garden in Rumson, a community-giving garden that donates all produce harvested to Lunch Break. The trend is moving to the mainstream, according to Jonas Forssell, owner and founder of Eco Logic, a Middletown company that designs, builds and maintains custom organic gardens. “When we started in 2010 this was a totally new concept and we had to convince people that edible gardens were part of a well-designed landscape,” he says. “Today, the general public is so well informed. They see the connection between the environment, food and health, and they want to grow their own food. But, it can be hard for people to find the time.”

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