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Growing a Future Worth Fighting For
Urban agriculture has been growing in the Greater Johnstown area, as well as in many other small and large cities for many years. Community gardens had been planted where abandoned buildings once stood and rooftop gardens are in the works. People are growing fond of planting their own fruits and vegetables.

It’s no secret that food shortage is a problem in the Bedford, Cambria and Somerset County region. We are living in a time where one in five children goes hungry, which means that they have no idea where their next meal will be coming from. Parents of children in those situations are more likely to buy less expensive junk food at the store than fruits, vegetables, lean meats and other foods that tend to be a more expensive heathier option.

That’s where urban agriculture comes in. What if less fortunate families could just walk down the street and pick some fresh tomatoes or head lettuce for free from their local community garden? Now they can.  It’s starting to become a reality for many neighborhoods in Johnstown. Community gardens have been sprouting up in the city’s downtown, Hornerstown, Prospect, and Moxham neighborhoods, but who takes care of these gardens? The 2014 Youth Philanthropy Interns discovered it takes many helping hands of volunteers and community members to make it possible. They helped pull tough weeds from the Sandyvale Community Garden; it’s a job that takes a good pair of gloves and a lot of patience but mostly importantly teamwork.

The hope is that these gardens won’t just provide community members with delicious, ripe vegetables, but also a sustainable learning experience. What if the next generation of young people in Greater Johnstown learns how to plant, grow and harvest these vegetables by themselves? It could lead to an exciting future for the city, a place where backyard or porch gardens are commonplace in every neighborhood. Perhaps it could lead to a prosperous and healthier future for families in need, spending time together growing, learning and picking from their own gardens.

Many larger cities are seeing this trend in urban agriculture with the lush, green appearance popping up on many rooftops. A few buildings in the Johnstown area are taking the initiative to make rooftop gardens part of Johnstown’s vibrant future.  ArtWorks in the Cambria City neighborhood is one of them developing a rooftop garden for their eco-friendly facility.  It will be a place where people can relax next to beautiful flowers and luscious vegetable plants while having an excellent view of the city.  Thanks in part to a grant from the 2014 Youth Philanthropy Interns, Flood City Youth Fitness Academy is also planning a rooftop garden which will be part of a new nutrition and educational initiative.  These projects are exciting prospects for the city and its future.  As the Community Foundation and its partner organizations continue to grow, so do the odds that urban agriculture will continue to become a more viable solution to the problem of food scarcity in our region.

-Anthony Wagner

2014 CFA Intern

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