By Jessica Buck, Montgomery County Conservation District Agricultural Conservation Specialist
Montgomery County Conservation District (MCCD) in Pennsylvania recently launched their first outreach and technical assistance program to farms and gardens in urban communities through NACD’s 2017 Urban Agriculture Conservation grant program.
This opportunity helped to establish long-lasting partnerships among community organizations and yielded meaningful outcomes to assist two target locations of this project: Norristown and Pottstown.
These two locations represent two of the most urban areas in the county in terms of density and population and are both classified as low-income and low-access, based on poverty rate and access to the nearest supermarket. Both areas have a large minority population as well as limited access to local fresh food.
A highlight of this project was the distribution of composting bins and rain barrels to urban gardens, including several school gardens. These two conservation measures served also as educational tools to teach the garden users about soil and water conservation as well as stormwater management.
In addition to these on-the-ground conservation efforts, a large piece of grant funding was used in partnership with GreenTreks Network to create an electronic Urban Ag Conservation Resource Guide. The digital guide includes interactive garden models and resources, as well as video documentary filmed in Pottstown’s gardens (download the guide to watch the embedded videos), and is intended for use by any community organization, municipality, or similar entity interested in starting an urban garden. The guide steps through every aspect from site selection, to finding funding, to gathering community support, to styles of gardens and technical information on planting and managing a garden.
It is a goal of this project to continue increasing support for urban gardens in Montgomery County through on-going information dissemination, creation and maintenance of lasting partnerships, and distribution of the educational guide.