Philly Peace Park was founded in North Philadelphia in February 2012 with one simple goal, to feed the community healthy food, says Pili X, the executive director of the garden project. “A large part of Philly is food insecure. The communities we are in have food insecurity and a lot of health issues related to the food we eat and don’t eat. “
Since 2018, the garden collective has given away more than 30,000 pounds of fresh produce, and in 2020 the project added a second location in West Philadelphia.
With a staff of around 50 volunteers, the Philly Peace Park promotes organic and sustainable urban farming and cultivates a variety of fruits and vegetables inside fence-free areas. In addition to a fruit orchard growing apples and pears, the gardens feature leafy green vegetables such as collard greens, lettuce, scallions, onions, zucchinis and squash, and an abundance of different herbs including mint, spearmint and mugwort.
“My favorite part about working in the garden is watching your hard work blossom into something useful,” says Jessica Allen, board member and volunteer at Philly Peace Park Garden. “Whether it is something that goes on the dinner table or herbs that help to heal you, such as lemon balm and holy basil, being able to provide for the community is a huge thing. When the neighbors come by and grab collards and an onion for dinner, it’s fulfilling.”
Building a rich community
Fostering teamwork and supporting education are other ways the project enriches the lives of its community members.
The Peace Park hosts two annual community events, a community day and a family day. For each, the community comes together to enjoy dishes made from produce harvested in the garden, to listen to guest speakers and to participate in children’s activities and workshops. This year, the Peace Park will complete construction on a STEM facility for neighborhood children as part of its community-powered redevelopment process that includes plans for expansion into a block-wide park and an ecology campus.
“Overall, I love the community I have been able to build with other members,” says Allen. “It is a family that I cherish. A school building is being built on the site. A quality education goes hand in hand with proper nutrition and having the opportunity to provide both to a community who desires it is what keeps us fighting every day!”
Trusting in the future
The organization reached an important milestone earlier this year when it established the Peacetown Commons Land Trust. This protects the park and helps ensure it will continue to grow and feed generations to come.
“Community gardens are being displaced, so we formed our own land trust so that the Peace Park is there for generations when the current staff is gone and have left to go to other occupations or different parts of the world,” says Pili X.