Rivera Rec raising funds for intergenerational garden, orchard

The Parks and Recreation Department’s Youth Urban Agriculture Program has about a week left to raise $400 and reach its $2,163 goal, which will fund the intergenerational garden and orchard the program is building at the Rivera Recreation Center in North Philadelphia’s Fairhill neighborhood. 

In partnership with Penn State Extension, Parks and Recreation set out to build a garden that youth at the Rivera Recreation Center’s after school and summer camp programs could use. Because the space available for the garden is so large, project leaders asked Rivera Recreation Center neighbor, the Mann Older Adult Center, if it would like to participate. The center was eager to jump onboard. 

It’s a natural fit, said Elisa Ruse-Esposito, Parks and Recreation Urban Agriculture Program coordinator. Many of the Mann Older Adult Center residents immigrated from the Caribbean and have an agrarian background, she explained. 

Once the garden is up and running, the Rivera Recreation Center youth will have four garden beds and the Mann Older Adult Center seniors will have larger, communal beds. There will be both formal and informal opportunities for the seniors and youth to interact, maybe by sharing stories, why they enjoy growing food or their cultural backgrounds, Ruse-Esposito said.

She sees the intergenerational project as, “kind of a celebration of food and healthy lifestyle and building connections in the community.”

The organizations involved did not necessarily set out to create an intergenerational garden. 

“This kind of all fell into place,” Ruse-Esposito said. “Two months ago we weren’t like, we’re going to start an intergenerational garden. All the pieces of the puzzle sort of fell together, which is kind of a nice, organic way for the project to form.”

The Parks and Recreation Department is happy with the results so far: lots of positive response and enthusiasm from everyone involved. 

“We’re definitely, in the Department, thinking if this is a success, how could we replicate it in other neighborhoods?”

Philadelphia Orchard Project & Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics

Again because the space available for the garden is so large, the project partners turned to the Philadelphia Orchard Project, and have worked out an arrangement to turn about half of the space into an orchard where they will grow various trees, fruit, berries, nuts and shrubs. 

On the recommendation of the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM), project leaders decided to incorporate a Citizinvestor fundraiser into the garden plans. Citizinvestor is an online, crowd-sourcing and fundraising tool. Ruse-Esposito said MONUM suggested using Citizinvestor for a finite aspect of the project, something with beginning and end points and visible results.

“So it made sense to raise money for the orchard project,” she said. 

According to the Citizinvestor page, the money raised will pay for three fruit trees, 12 berry bushes, 50 eco-perennials, 250 strawberries and groundcovers, mulch, site-specific orchard design and planting supervision.

Once the intergenerational community garden and orchard are ready, youth ages six to 12 will grow food and learn about environmental science, larger pollution issues and environmental stewardship. Project leaders hope to grow food beginning this summer. 


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