Allegheny Grows funds first-year projects in Wilkinsburg, Bellevue and Penn Hills

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"Allegheny Grows" is itself growing with urban-agriculture projects spreading to three more communities.

Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato will announce today that Bellevue, Wilkinsburg and Penn Hills will be the sites this spring of new urban farms and community gardens.

This year is the second for the program designed to dress up empty lots, build community spirit, encourage local organizing, aid the environment and provide fresh produce for local food pantries.

"Allegheny Grows builds on the county's ongoing initiatives to revitalize older communities and distressed municipalities through sustainable development and strategic investment," Mr. Onorato said in a statement.

A dozen communities competed to participate in this year's program.

The three that were chosen were selected for their strong leadership, enthusiasm of local volunteers, suitability of their garden site and community need, project manager Iris Whitworth said. She works for the business development unit of the county's economic development office.

Allegheny Grows has a budget this year of about $75,000. In addition to setting up the three new agricultural projects, the funds will be used to cover second-year costs for garden projects begun last year in Millvale and McKees Rocks. The source of the money is federal community development block grants.

The effort is a collaboration with Grow Pittsburgh and local partners in each community. Grow Pittsburgh was formed in 2005 to encourage city gardening.

Bellevue's project will be a urban farm on Davis Avenue on a 1-acre vacant tract owned by North Hills Community Outreach. The land had been donated in 2008 to the social-service agency by the Amelio family for an organic garden, according to Fay Morgan, executive director of North Hills Community Outreach.

North Hills Community Outreach is a faith-based social-service agency that serves families and individuals in communities north of Pittsburgh. Most of the labor for the organic farming effort will be provided by volunteers, supervised by a part-time agency employee. Produce grown there will be donated to food pantries.

Wilkinsburg's urban farm is a 2-acre site in the city's Hamnett Place neighborhood. The land is owned by Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, which already is involved with several housing renewal projects in the community. Allegheny Grows will be working with a citizens organization called Hamnett Place Community Garden Association to plant and care for the site.

Penn Hills officials are providing a water truck and leaf-mulch compost for a community garden on the site of a former municipal ballfield. The tract had been planted as a garden last year by a youth group. Produce grown through this year's effort will benefit up to three local food pantries.

Second-year Allegheny Grows' assistance to gardens in Millvale and McKees Rocks will include providing both seedlings and some technical advice from Grow Pittsburgh. Millvale also will receive several rain-collecting barrels and McKees Rocks will get help in edging its garden beds and making them accessible to people with disabilities.


Len Barcousky: lbarcousky@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1159.


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