Like many large and older cities, Philadelphia is stricken with a plethora of abandoned properties. More than 40,00 vacant lots exist in the city, according to phila.gov. Prone to crime and the dumping of trash, these unoccupied land plots have become eyesores for communities.
In Kensington, though, gardeners have started refurbishing these lots and transforming them into small urban farms.
Josh Mints, a resident of Cambria Street, has been working on an area of land behind his house, turning it into his own produce section.
“I really enjoy being able to feed myself and my family and hopefully my roommates as well,” said Mints. “That is a lot of the motivation with that I am doing.”
Mints said he hopes this farm will add to his community. “I am hoping that by having this positive place, less the a block away from one of the worst drug corners in the city, will make this neighborhood known for more then just negativity,” said Mints. “It can be like a sanctuary.”
Mints has his own bee hive for harvesting honey and plans on purchasing chickens and a coup to house them. This spring he plans on growing tomatoes, kale, basil and many other vegetables.
The Philadelphia Horticultural Society has been participating in transforming vacant properties for over 20 years. The Philadelphia LandCare Program have made it a mission to clean and make use of these neglected areas.
“We clean them and green them,” said Allen Jaffe, the public relations manager for the Philadelphia Horticultural Society. “We come in and clean up all of the trash and debris. Then we plant grass and trees and construct our signature post and rail design.”
After the lot is refurbished, the neighborhood can choose its use. Some are turned into gardens or small social area called “pocket parks.”
“People feel safer when their neighborhoods looks better,” said Jaffe. “It encourages people to go outside.”
According to a study performed by Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, living near a greened vacant area feels safer than living near one that is not. The study also found that greening can have an effect on the amount of crime in a community. The study called this process a, low-cost, high-reward approach.
“Greening improves the atmosphere of an area,” said Jaffe. “People feel like they’re being cared for.”