Thursday, March 25, 2010
Allegheny County is hoping to use the “urban farm” in Braddock as a model for more farms and community gardens in Allegheny County. The county has launched “Allegheny Grows,” which will give equipment and technical support to communities wanting to turn blighted property into vegetable and sunflower plots. The county has chosen nine municipalities to participate this year. McKees Rocks and Millvale will create urban farms, and Bridgeville, Elizabeth Borough, Millvale, Sharpsburg, Stowe Twp., Swissvale, Tarentum and Verona will develop community gardens. County Spokesperson Kevin Evanto says the county will take applications from other communities in January of 2011 for next year’s participants. Evanto says it will be up to the local communities to decide how the produce is used once it is harvested. In Braddock the produce is sold at a farmers’ market and to local restaurants. Evanto says the new communities could use the same model or they could give it away to those who have invested time into the garden or the needy in the area. Evanto admits that a garden may not be the highest and best use for the land but he says it is better than a vacant lot. He says people who live near the gardens take pride in them and watch out for them so vandalism has not been an issue and community ties are made stronger. He says in some instances crime falls in the neighborhoods where there are community plots. Some of the plots will be filled with sunflowers. Evanto says the seeds will either be sold to the East End Food Co-op and Whole Foods for human consumption or sent to be made into bio diesel. He says the sunflowers have the added advantage of pulling contamination from the soil so the crop will leave the land cleaner than it was before the project was launched.