- Our Neighbors
First and foremost, our primary partners in our pursuit to sustainable and equitably develop the section of North-Central Philadelphia surrounding LDG are our closest neighbors. For one, a number of PUC’s top young organizers and founders are from the immediate area and have been ambassadors of our collective vision in their community since our inception. PUC believes very strongly in grass-roots organizing, and believes that sustainable communities cannot emerge from a top-down approach, but must start and be led by their most fundamental local resources; local people. That is why PUC dedicated the first year of its operation not farming or to any kind of physical development, but rather to community organizing. Our organizers canvassed the closest homes to our land many times to discuss our vision with neighbors, attended various community meetings, met with leaders in the community from different houses of worship, schools, and community groups, and thew block parties to bring people together and raise awareness about our ideas.
Only in January of 2011 did we feel that we had fostered enough relationships to begin physically working in the community. And with the birth of our farm, the fruits of our organizing labor and the true colors of our collective efforts became strikingly apparent. Many of the neighbors and community leaders that we had built relationships with in 2010, along with many more that we have gotten to know since then, have become true supporters of our initiatives. A number of neighbors regularly come out and work with us on the farm. Many have taken on some of our watering shifts, and some now have their own beds within the farm its-self. The family who owns and operates the auto shop across the street from us have helped us gather resources and build nearly every permanent structure on the land. Children from throughout the area are beginning to spend more time at the farm than anyone, both working with us during work days and socializing afterwords. Our block parties have brought more and more neighbors into the space, which is consistently widening our base of support and leadership.
To put it simply, there is nothing without the community. It was once said that “nothing about us, without us, is for us”. and it is an essential for PUC that our “us” increasingly constitutes a local population. Life Do Grow is by no means a solely PUC project. It is, rather, the product of an ever evolving relationship between our young organizers, the residents of this community, and the institutions and organizations within it; all working in solidarity to harvest a collective vision, and implement that vision to develop this community sustainably, equitably, and from the ground-up.
- Village of Arts & Humanities
PUC’s primary local partner in North-Central Philadelphia is the Village of Arts & Humanities. The Village is a 25 year old North Philadelphia based non-profit organization whose mission is to build community through innovative arts, educational, social, construction, and economic and youth development programs. They have been a huge support to PUC’s missions even before officially forming our own organization. Throughout 2010, they introduced us to a number of the young people in their program who eventually became participants in our early service-learning trips to New Orleans, New York, New Jersey, and Milwaukee; and many of these students have since evolved into some of PUC’s top young organizers and facilitators.
The Village embodies a vision of sustainable urban renewal and youth empowerment very similar to our own, and have been implementing that vision in North-Central Philadelphia for the past 25 years. So in late 2010, when PUC was just emerging and searching for land to begin developing into our first urban farm and learning center, the Village allotted us the 2 acre plot of land that we now call home. This beautiful landscape adjacent to the SEPTA regional rail, the Fairhill Public Housing Projects, and many of North Philadelphia’s historic row homes, is now functioning as PUC’s first tangible project: LIFE DO GROW. We have since developed relationships with a wide array of additional organizations, schools, houses of worship, and neighbors to develop this land, but PUC would simply not exist as it does today without the generosity, support, determination, and solidarity of the Village.
- Fairhill Public Housing Community Board
Many of our closest neighbors live in the Fairhill Public Housing complex on 11th street. In 2010, we were introduced to the lead organizers of it’s community board, and we have since committed to attending their community meetings to get to know its residents, support their initiatives, and share our vision with them. A growing number of its residents of all ages have become increasingly involved in the farm. Some have taken on watering shifts at the farm, many of its children are now regular participants in our work days, and we have even found our official local DJ’s to provide music at our block parties from Fairhill.
- Norris Public Housing Community Board
The next closest public housing complex to PUC’s farm is the Norris complex. We were introduced to some of its community center’s organizers in 2010, and we have since kept up a relationship with them. We originally spoke with many families in Norris about bringing their children to New Orleans with us in July 2010, and although that ultimately did not work out, many of these same young people now regularly come and work with us on the farm.
PUC is collaborating with the African American United Fund in a variety of ways. As local partners in the struggle for social and environmental justice in North Philadelphia, PUC and the AAUF share resources, provide our youth with a variety of socially and environmentally focussed educational programs, improve our communities access to vital resources for development, and are collaborating to transform vacant lots in the neighborhood into community based urban gardens.
- Visions of Missions Church
Directly across the street from LDG sits Visions of Missions Church. As our closet neighbor, we have spent much time getting to know its pastors, deacons, attendees, and children. Visions of Missions has been a big support to us, helping us organize and do outreach in the community for our block parties which have increasingly come to serve as wonderful ways to meet neighbors and engage them in the development of the farm, and the overall harvesting of our collective vision for the development of this community.
Additionally, Visions of Missions have given us the rights to use a vacant plot of land that they own on Dakota street for an extension of Life Do Grow. This plot will be “Dakota Garden“, and will be home to PUC’s Bee hives and flower beds.
- Mt. Calvary Church
Around the corner from LDG is Mt. Calvary Church. PUC organizers have developed relationships with its pastor and many of it’s deacons, and they too have been a great supporter of our program by helping us reach out to the community. In May 2011, Mt. Calvary’s pastor led his congregation to our block party after sunday service to learn about what we were doing and to encourage solidarity between us.