News: Harvest Time

With help from a USDA grant, PHS Launches the Community Grower’s Alliance
by Lee Stabert

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has been awarded a $300,000 grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Over the three-year lifespan of the grant, PHS will use the money to expand City Harvest, its expansive urban food growing program, through the creation of the Community Grower’s Alliance.  (For more on City Harvest, see the November issue of Grid.)

“The grant we received from the USDA will help us provide resources to entrepreneurial urban growers,” explains Program Manager Claire Baker. “It’s a great opportunity for growers to earn supplemental income, grow on land that is not currently in active agricultural use and make more fresh produce available in their communities.”

PHS will provide resources for those urban farmers, including lumber for raised beds, soil, plants, organic pest control measures and harvesting tools. The growers will then sell their produce to local restaurants, farmers’ markets or Weaver’s Way Co-op, who have agreed to purchase all the produce that sellers offer.

All that help doesn’t come free. Members will donate a portion of their yield back to the City Harvest program for distribution in food cupboards and pantries. In addition, they must grow organically, commit to grow for three years (three seasons per year), attend community education workshops on sustainable food production and marketing and contribute $100 back into the Grower’s Alliance Fund.

“This is a big commitment,” explains Baker. “It’s for people who are really excited about urban farming and urban growing.”

PHS is hoping for a diverse group of participants—from backyard gardeners to individuals partnered with churches or community centers, taking advantage of their unused land.