When Jerry first encountered FGW in Africa last year, he told me that we need to bring it home to the inner city where we live. So, in April 2017, we introduced FGW into New Kensington, a blighted rust belt town in the metropolitan Pittsburgh area. We received permission to implement a small FGW “farm” on a vacant lot next to the YMCA. That is a highly visible location on the main street through the city.
Jerry Jefferson (left) with some of our youthful urban farmers in New Kensington
Our “farmers” are teens from the city, and some juvenile offenders doing community service. The sight of up to 30 teen farmers working on the FGW urban farm brought many drive-by beeps and waves. Our farm has received many visitors, including curious neighbors, city councilmen, a district magistrate, a newspaper reporter, prostitutes and drug users.
The FGW urban farm in New Kensington was productive far beyond our highest hopes. Our little bean patch (about 1/100 acre) produced over 150 pounds of beautiful green beans. At that production level, we could have harvested 7.5 tons of green beans from a full acre! Our corn field (about 2/100 acre) produced 55 dozen ears of delicious sweet corn. Imagine the pleasant shock for local residents to see a robust corn field in the heart of their inner city neighborhood!
Our FGW urban farm was warmly received by the community and the youth. Our young urban farmers often asked us when they could work again with us in the field. When the local district magistrate visited the farm, he was so pleased to see some of his young men working enthusiastically with us, that he made a substantial donation to the farm on the spot. City councilmen appreciated our urban farm, so they had the city deliver as much leaf mulch and grass clippings as we wanted. The director of the YMCA was so pleased with the FGW farm, that he often worked in the field with us, and he asked us to expand the farm next year to cover the entire vacant lot. The CEO of the YMCA in a neighboring town asked us to implement FGW at their site next year. Two other community gardens in town were so impressed by the production of the FGW farm and the level of youth involvement, that they have asked us to direct their gardens next year, and turn them into FGW farms.