WAYNE — It’s not often that an auto spa and a garden will be synonymous, but a ride along Hamburg Turnpike in Wayne may just change your mind.
A visit to the Wayne Auto Spa can result in a cleaner car, an oil change, brake adjustment or other maintenance on a vehicle.
But the two acre property, owned and operated by Rob Burke, is also home to a thriving garden, which grows tomatoes, celery, beets, oregano, sugar snaps, radishes, onions, zucchini, cucumbers and other foods.
And off to the side of the property, a chicken coop houses plenty of egg-laying hens.
And now, the spa will be enhanced with a windmill-type turbine. The turbine could supply about one-third of the spa’s energy needs, specifically the car wash. It will provide energy that is free, clean and renewable. The wind energy will also provide geothermal air conditioning.
Work has already begun on the turbine, which will stand about 50 feet tall once it’s fully installed. Groundbreaking began by digging into the ground approximately four feet. A seven foot by seven foot cement slab covering the ground was recently laid. The actual turbine will be constructed next, with the various parts already on the property.
Burke hopes that the windmill will be up and running, within the next two weeks.
“It will run strictly by wind power,” said Burke of the turbine. “With the (existing) solar panels on the roof of the spa, we are saving more energy and helping the environment.”
A wind turbine is a device that converts kinetic energy from the wind, intro electrical power. The smallest turbines are used for applications such as battery charging for auxiliary power for boats caravans, or to power traffic warning signs. Slightly larger turbines can be used for making small contributions to a domestic power supply, while selling unused power back to the utility supplier via an electrical grid.
Burke, an attorney by trade, is a full time entrepreneur at his business. While he has a staff to take care of the automobiles, his passion is growing food, with the products going to needy people in Passaic County by way of food pantries.
Earlier this year, Burke teamed with Eva’s Village, a Paterson-based comprehensive non-profit service organization and one of the largest anti-poverty programs in New Jersey, to provide food for the hungry.
“We’ve made six good sized donations to Eva’s, and we expect to have a lot more food going to them in the next few months,” said Burke.
Eva’s Village provides a wide range of services for the poor in New Jersey, including food, shelter, substance abuse treatment, primary medical and dental care and a variety of transitional and permanent housing options.
Making food and helping the less fortunate is something which drives Burke.
“It’s an amazing feeling when we’re able to help others,” Burke said, as he tended to a number of tomato vines. “And the way people have followed us, and the work we do is pretty nice, too.”
According to Burke, volunteers are at the plenty to help pick up chicken feed.
“Every month, someone volunteers to drive up to Sussex County and get about 500 pounds worth of feed,” he said. “Believe me, it’s so appreciated, because that’s almost a full day’s venture, between getting the food and bringing it back. But to have volunteers help is incredible. I haven’t had to make that trip in almost a year.”
Recently, Burke noted that a bee expert learned of his work and is now helping Burke learn more about honeybees and their role in the pollination of vegetables and fruit, which is vital toward a garden’s health.
Children also enjoy what Burke’s Victory Garden and Learning Center at the spa is accomplishing.
“I think when people see what we’re growing, food that is organic and good for you, it’s quite an eye opener,” Burke said. “And we have more projects on the horizon, past the turbine. There’s so much more work to do. When you see the price of food today, it’s crazy. Everything is going up, all the time. It’s nice to be able to help others.”
Fundraising for a greenhouse on the property is going well, and Burke hopes it will be in place by the fall.
“The greenhouse will obviously help us grow more food, especially during the winter months, when it’s not as advantageous to plant outdoors,” he said.
The concept of a Victory Garden extends nearly 100 years in the United States, according to Burke.
“During World War I and World War II, people in this country would grow food to help feed our troops,” Burke said. “Forty percent of American produce from that era came from those gardens, both public and privately owned. Can you imagine if that happened today? If every business could grow food, it could feed so many people. I look at what we’re able to accomplish here and it’s small thing, but it brings out so many feelings of thanks.”
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