There’s an old garden saying for taking something that presents as a challenge and turning that challenge into a positive outcome: “The problem is the solution.” We hope that now that you’ve checked out Grounded in Philly, that saying will start to come to mind when you walk past a vacant lot covered in burnt out tires and trash or you see signs of persistent hunger and lack of access to quality food in your neighborhood.
If people can get to them, not just physically but legally, vacant lots can be opportunities for neighbors who want to respond to food insecurity and neighborhood blight in ways that are truly reflective of a community’s identity, values and culture. Many folks throughout Philly neighborhoods have already found ways to turn the crisis of vacant lots, 40,000 vacant lots that is, into community-driven projects that have helped provide access to fresh food, community green space and neighborhood development.
But there’s no comprehensive, city-wide process, program, law or agency that facilitates connecting people to land and ensuring those who have already made that connection can continue their thriving projects. The physical demands for turning a vacant lot into a garden or neighborhood space may require hard work and can be tough, but the initial process of deciding to turn a lot into community space should be transparent and clear. Finding an appropriate lot, securing it, and finding other people to partner with should not be the misdirected, misconstrued, severely complicated process it is today.
So that’s where Grounded in Philly and Healthy Foods Green Spaces come into play.
Grounded in Philly is designed to make the process of securing and using vacant land sane and simple. And Healthy Foods Green Spaces is working to magnify the voices of neighborhoods, individuals and organizations that support urban agriculture and community gardening initiatives and turn that magnified presence into sustained action toward city-wide reforms.
Now, you can actually figure out who owns a lot and find resources for how you might secure that lot. You can attend a coalition meeting and take action to urge City Council to pass a comprehensive land bank bill. You can upload a photo of the community garden you and your neighbors have been working on for years and figure out how to keep your land.
Since these are such big, new steps for our fair city and since at the heart of this work are the relationships we build as fellow residents, citizens and neighbors, we’d like you to celebrate with us as we launch into these two new initiatives. Join us on Wednesday, June 26th from 4:30 – 7:00 p.m. at the Federation of Neighborhood Centers’ Teens 4 Good Farm at 8th & Poplar in Philadelphia. Enjoy entertainment, refreshments, a press conference (possible special guest appearances included!) with your fellow activists and organizers. RSVP here or just show up!