One of the simplest and productive ways towns can rejuvenate their appearance is through community gardens. Just outside of Pittsburgh, lies the former steel town-within-a-town of Braddock. A decade ago it was a shantytown, but with the efforts of a dedicated citizenry, Braddock is becoming a model for other parts of the greater Pittsburgh area that were economically decimated by the death of the steel industry in America.
Braddock Farms is almost too large to be considered a community garden, and, according to their website, is the “single source of fresh produce” for the borough. With assistance from Grow Pittsburgh—a nonprofit group started by three local urban farmers—they hope to help residents create “attractive greenspace,”and hope to “increase local access to fresh, nutritious foods.” They will do this by turning vacant land no one wants into community gardens.
It’s been a year since my daughter declared herself a vegetarian on ethical grounds. She is an animal advocate and very interested in the environment. For the most recent half of her life, she has lived in rural Pennsylvania, surrounded by rolling hills of forests and acres of farmed flatland. So, when spending time with me in the city, I have tried to think of ways to not only support her dietary choices, but encourage her love of nature.
So starting in spring (or when spring weather actually begins), I am going to see if we can’t do some community gardening of our own. If there isn’t one, perhaps we will ask local officials if there aren’t places that might be better as community gardens instead of whatever they are now. It would be a good opportunity for a civics lesson, too.
Still, if we’re unable to find one locally, we can always volunteer at places like Braddock Farms who can always use the help. Sure, we’ll probably grow some veggies in the backyard as well (it tickles me to think that she takes produce back to “the country”), but it’s not just about growing some kale or tomatoes.
The appeal of the community garden is that it represents the best ideal for the urban ecosystem. Despite the necessity for large-scale food-producers, the natural byproduct of that sort of farming is food treated with chemicals and plastic waste on the consumer end. For some, fresh vegetables of any kind are out of their price range. For at least a few weeks, neighborhoods can take their community-grown vegetables from the ground to the table. There’s also bound to be plenty of extra harvest for those who may be hungry.
Are there any community gardens in your area? And places you think might make a good location for one? Tell us in the comments below!