At Grow Pittsburgh, we believe that everyone in our region should have the opportunity to grow and eat local, healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food. Collaborating with neighborhoods to grow food and teach sustainability creates healthy communities. Since 2010, we have worked with communities to start 26 gardens in Allegheny County through our City Growers and Allegheny Grows programs.
Demetria Cox is a member of The Fallen Stars of Northview Heights Community Garden, which was established in 2016 as part of Grow Pittsburgh’s City Growers program. She is part of the small but dedicated group of gardeners who have triumphed over first-year garden challenges and are now in their second growing season. The gardeners are enjoying the fruits of their labor in their Northside community.
Smiling as she weeds, Demetria fondly recalls her “Grandoche” (grandmother) teaching her to enjoy farm work. She remembers working on her grandma’s farm in Georgia every summer with her family. They were a team, taking care of each other and learning together.
When she moved north, Demetria lost her connection to gardening and had been wanting to get back into it. The Fallen Stars garden has been inspirational, sparking her spirit and reminding her of her childhood. She has found value in reconnecting to her family values of self-sustainability and learning. Returning to the garden “brought something back to me, it touched my heart, makes me want to cry.”
Demetria has also gained confidence in her gardening skills, acknowledging the support of Community Garden Coordinator AJ Bisesi, who has been working with the gardeners as part of Grow Pittsburgh’s City Growers program. This year she has started her very own home garden in addition to faithfully volunteering at the Fallen Stars garden. Demetria has even been able to encourage her son and husband to become involved, which makes her happy. Passing on the skills she has learned has been most valuable. “The biggest benefit has been learning, passing it on to my kids—that’s a gift,” says Cox.
Demetria has enjoyed meeting more neighbors through the garden, having their children play together, and teaching them how to garden. “It makes us all happy as a community,” she says. She has talked to a lot of her Somali neighbors, trying to get them involved and feeling welcome. If a neighbor can’t come out to the garden, she is happy to bring them produce as an incentive to join!
Fallen Stars has summer expansion plans that include building a shade structure to promote the garden as a community space, completing groundhog fencing, and doubling garden yields from 2016 by adding growing space. The garden is working with Grow Pittsburgh to increase participation, host monthly workshops, and develop garden leadership and support structures to sustain the garden past 2017.