“Allegheny Grows” Initiative to Promote Urban Farming
Allegheny Grows is an outgrowth of the County’s successful partnership with Grow Pittsburgh to create the Braddock Urban Farm, which turned eight vacant lots in the heart of the borough into a 20,000 square-foot farm with 90 raised beds.
Onorato Launches “Allegheny Grows” Initiative to Promote Urban Farming and Community Gardening
March 25, 2010
PITTSBURGH — Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato today launched “Allegheny Grows,” a new initiative to encourage urban farming and community gardening on vacant lots and blighted properties. Allegheny Grows will offer startup materials, as well as technical and educational assistance to municipalities that show significant interest in developing urban farms and community gardens.
Nine municipalities will participate in the inaugural year of the County’s effort. McKees Rocks and Millvale will create urban farms, and Bridgeville, Elizabeth Borough, Millvale, Sharpsburg, Stowe Twp., Swissvale, Tarentum and Verona will develop community gardens.
“Allegheny Grows is an exciting new initiative that will help to improve the environment, strengthen communities and provide access to fresh produce,” said Onorato. “Allegheny Grows builds on the County’s ongoing efforts to revitalize our older communities and distressed municipalities through sustainable development and strategic investment.”
Urban farms and community gardens offer a host of environmental, economic and social benefits. Vegetation can reflect as much as 20 to 25 percent of the sun’s radiation, reducing the heat island effect and cooling urban areas. Garden soil is absorbent, and it reduces runoff from rain and helps to minimize surface erosion. Gardens reduce pollutants in the air by absorbing carbon dioxide and other substances. Small open spaces in urban areas provide crucial corridors for retaining native wildlife and supporting migratory species.
In the United States, a meal travels approximately 13,000 miles on average before reaching the dinner table. Eating locally produced foods reduces fuel consumption, carbon dioxide emissions, and a variety of other environmental consequences associated with the transportation of foods.
Urban farms offer fresh produce and healthy food opportunities, especially in economically challenged communities where access to abundant nourishing food choices is often absent. Community gardens and urban farms become gathering places for residents, fostering social interactions and civic pride, which often helps to reduce crime. Green space also has strong potential to increase property values and encourage investment.
To be eligible for Allegheny Grows, municipalities have to demonstrate significant interest in urban farming, provide letters of interest from partners, and have a leader willing to spearhead the project. They must have access to a suitable farming site that has significant amounts of direct sunlight, available water source and nearly flat slope. Municipalities must also be eligible to receive Community Development Block Grant funds, meaning 46.7 percent or more of their populations qualify as low/moderate income households. Applications for Allegheny Grows will be made available in January of each year.