Throughout the winter and into the spring, we have been on our construction grind! Along with a new host of partner organizations, students from local schools, volunteers, and neighbors of all ages from the neighborhood, we have renovated old structures, built new ones, and laid the foundation for 2 new gardens in the area.
Each monday and wednesday, 15 young men from the Mural Arts Guild Restorative Justice Program have participated as extensions of Devon’s Development team, assisting in the construction of 2 new green houses, a new class room, our vertical herb growing wall, and 30 raised beds. Together, they recycled old materials, pre-fabricated all of the structures in Devon’s workshop, and then moved them out across the street to give LIFE DO GROW an entirely renovated new look. In the process, they have developed employable skill sets in construction, demolition, landscaping, and urban agriculture, and we are beginning to teach them entrepreneurial skills through the management and distribution of the products grown in the green house that they have build for FUEL Philly’s 3 restaurants down in center city.
THE NEW CLASSROOM
With renovations on our mind, we decided to demolish the class room, our very first structure, and build an new one in its place. We recycled the tin from the original roof and lumber used for its structure to build new raised beds, and have replaced it with a much sturdier structure. This new class room also functions as a large rain collecting system which funnels rain water into our 300 gallon reserve water tank.
FUEL Philly’s Custom Green House
This winter, the Restaurant chain, FUEL Philly, officially became the first investor in our green house production program. FUEL made an investment of $1,000, with which we purchased supplies to erect a 15ft by 10 ft green house customer designed to harvest micro greens, wheatgrass, and herbs for their menu. This is the first, of what we plan to be many, such relationships with restaurants, and will soon evolve into the corner stone of our produce distributing business.
The guys from the Mural Arts Guild helped build the entire structure, and are now participating in the production of the plants inside, and will soon join in as we start selling these products to FUEL on a weekly basis. This way they are gaining practical skills in construction and green house production, as well as learning entrepreneurial skills through engaging with the inner workings of our emerging business plan.
THE VERTICAL HERB WALL
Using reclaimed wooden pallets, our building trade mark, we have created a vertical herb wall. This wall will soon be growing pounds of organic herbs including mint, basil, thyme, parsley, oregano, camomile, cilantro, rosemary, and lavender, and represent an affordable method to utilize vertical space for food production in an highly condensed urban setting.
We soon found that this wall quickly became integrated with the surrounding natural environment, and has become a host to all kinds of critters and small animals including this beautiful nest of Robin eggs.
Our neighbors, Visions of Missions church, have recently granted us permission to use a vacant lot that the own on Dakota street (just down the block from Life Do Grow). For years it has remained an overgrown vacant lot, but with the help of volunteers from throughout the city, we have cleared all of the weeds, laid down a thick layer of fresh mulch, and have installed 20 raised beds.
Along with members of the church and neighbors on Dakota street, we will be planting dozens of varieties of flowers in these raised beds, and will add a bee hive in the back of the property. This way, the flowers will provide a wealth of nectar for the bees to produce Honey, and in exchange, the bees will pollinate the flowers and help them spread their seeds throughout the neighborhood.
CARLISLE COMMUNITY GARDEN
Finally, in working with the neighbors on the 2300 block of N. Carlisle st, we have transformed a row homed sized vacant plot of land into a beautiful community garden. We have spent several months building relationship with the neighbors on the block, both long time residents and Temple students, and hosted a meeting to design the garden in early March.
Since then, we have covered the lot in fresh mulch, built 4 raised vegetable beds, a vertical herb wall out of pallets, and a raised bed around the fence for vines, flowers, and fruits to crawl up. We will be building them a green house in the next month. From here on out, the neighbors on this block will manage this site, and stand as an example how North Philadelphia Residents and Temple students can forge healthy relationships and collaborate to transform our urban landscape together.