Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding toured Harrisburg’s Wesley Garden with volunteers and gardeners, discussing the important role community gardens play in providing access to fresh, healthy food for communities affected by food apartheid. A community garden run by the Harrisburg Urban Growers through Tri County Community Action, Wesley Garden provides local families access to tools, space, and mentorship to plant their own garden and experience the freedom of growing their own food.
“I’ve always said that in Pennsylvania, agriculture is zip code neutral. Now more than ever, that needs to be the case,” said Agriculture Secretary Redding. “Systemic discrimination has created a ‘food apartheid’, depriving low income communities whose residents are predominantly people of color, of fresh, nutritious food, and repeating a cycle that limits their access to economic opportunities and better health.
“This pandemic has focused our attention on inequities, but it has also sharpened our focus on the important role urban and community gardens play in our commonwealth’s food system. Urban gardens feed communities in need, breaking down walls that block opportunity and bringing communities together.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic has washed across Pennsylvania, food security and access to fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables have taken center stage. To not further stress the charitable food system, there is a need to reduce food waste and strengthen local food production, and shorten the supply chain between consumers and their food source.”
Food production in cities – from rooftop or vacant plot gardens, to vertical or indoor farming – plays an important role in advancing food and nutritional security both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2019, Governor Tom Wolf signed the first-ever PA Farm Bill which funded 28 Urban Agriculture Grant projects with $500,000 to improve Pennsylvania’s urban ag infrastructure and provide opportunities for entrepreneurship and community-building. The grant program works to break down walls in inequality while providing fresh, healthy foods in urban areas where access to food is limited while also exposing young Pennsylvanians to agriculture and the career opportunities held by the industry.
In his Plan for Pennsylvania, Governor Wolf proposed renewing the $23.1 million investment for a second PA Farm Bill. The department looks forward to continued prioritization of agriculture and working with the legislature to craft a budget for continued recovery and opportunities for further infrastructure improvements in urban agriculture for improved food security in the commonwealth.
“Urban gardening is beneficial to our environment, helps to improve our physical, mental and emotional well-being, and can even stimulate local economy. Urban gardening also helps families save a significant amount of money on groceries. Families that garden can supply most, if not all, of their families’ produce needs,” said Tri County Community Action Executive Director Jennifer Wintermyer. “Our community gardens provide a place where members of our community can have sustainable and reliable food sources and an immediate connection to their food. We are thrilled to work with our community gardeners and the Harrisburg Urban Gardeners to help empower individuals in our community to grow their own food.”