Photo courtesy of Zeal Eva
Raspberries are ripening and flowers are in full bloom at Kincaid Street Garden in Garfield. The community-run green space comes alive this time of year as local residents harvest the vegetables, fruits, and flowers they planted across more than 35 garden plots on the approximately 4,800 square foot site.
Flash back to 2011 and the garden was nothing more than a few empty lots located around 5414 Kincaid Street. At the prompting of community members, East Liberty Development, Inc. (ELDI), purchased one of the lots at a foreclosure.
Shortly after, fellows from the Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience (PULSE) came up with the idea of converting the land into a community garden. The hope was that the property—located right behind the PULSE Graham House—would serve as an opportunity for local residents to cultivate community by growing their own food. In late 2012, PULSE began collaborating with the Garfield Community Action Team, and later Grow Pittsburgh, a nonprofit that supports urban agriculture projects, on developing the garden with Garfield residents.
“It started with a few garden plots in a backyard and grew to four vacant lots over the next decade,” Lydia Yoder, a long-time volunteer at the garden, said.
Garfield residents can sign up to become a member of Kincaid Street Garden, with around 25 doing so each year. Members care for collectively shared garden plots with perennial crops or adopt their own plot to care for independently. The garden is also used as a play area for kids that live nearby.
Yoder says that the space has become a real fixture in the community.
“We love working together on the challenges and joys of building community and a garden, we love sharing food around our picnic table together (in non-Covid times), and we love playing in the dirt.”
Saving a community asset for generations to come
Thanks to the recent sale of ELDI’s garden lot to the Allegheny Land Trust (ALT), a Pittsburgh land conservation nonprofit, Garfield neighbors will be able to continue playing in the dirt well into the future. As part of the sales agreement, ELDI stipulated that the land must be maintained as a community garden space in perpetuity.
As such, the garden now falls under ALT and Grow Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Agricultural Land Initiative (TRALI) which aims to protect existing community gardens and urban farms throughout the Pittsburgh region. ALT will own the land and Grow Pittsburgh will support Kincaid Street Garden with mentorship and resources as they always have. Garden volunteers are also working with the TRALI program to eventually preserve all four lots on which the garden sits.
With more and more development happening in the East End, Shivam Mathur, ELDI’s real estate development project manager, says that the sale aligns perfectly with our mission to bring about a positive change in the community.
As he notes, “It’s important that we save our community assets.”
With the future of the property secured, Kincaid Street Garden is free to care for the land as they see fit. For members, most of whom are Garfield residents who live within five blocks of the garden, this comes as a huge relief and will allow them to take their endeavors to the next level.
“Over the years, we feared that the lots could be taken out from under us, as has happened to other community gardens in Pittsburgh. That fear prevented us from making long-term investments in the garden,” Yoder explained. “We can now plan for a long future for the garden!”