Doing Good: Neighborhood Gardens Trust

Two children hold vegetable in a garden.
Photo: Rob Cardillo

Photo Credits: Rob Cardillo

Welcome to Doing Good, where every week we feature an organization that’s having a positive impact in our community. Every nonprofit gets the same five questions, and every week you get introduced to the people who are making our city better. The nonprofit spotlight is here to shine a light on the helpers, and, who knows, maybe you’ll be inspired to get involved, volunteer or donate to an organization you meet here. Or maybe you’ll just leave feeling a bit better about the world.

In the spirit of our spring guide, this week we are introducing you to Neighborhood Gardens Trust, which helps save and create gardens across Philadelphia.

What is your mission?
Neighborhood Gardens Trust is Philadelphia’s neighborhood garden protector. We keep land in the hands of Philadelphians to grow food, flowers and community. We do this by securing ownership or long-term leases for green spaces that are created and stewarded by community members.

How have you made a difference?

A group of people sit on a bench in a garden.
Photo: Rob Cardillo

Philadelphians have been working together at community gardens across the city for decades. They do so for many reasons: To transform vacant land into safe shared green space. To grow healthy food for family and neighbors. To spend time outdoors in nature. To educate kids and pass along cultural traditions. To clean and cool the urban environment.

Unfortunately, despite their many benefits, these open spaces are under serious threat of being lost to real estate development. NGT was founded to help address this problem. We’ve protected 50 open spaces to date and we’re working to reach 70 protected gardens in the next two years. We also work closely with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) to help provide supplies, materials and ongoing support to preserved gardens so they can continue to thrive for generations to come.

Can you tell us a story about the work you do?

People gardening outdoors
Photo: Rob Cardillo

This winter, NGT was able to permanently protect threatened properties at the Brewerytown Community Garden at N. 27th and Master Street. This garden is an essential community hub with 80 garden beds, a greenhouse, a community-supported agriculture program and a weekly farm stand. The garden hosts many programs that bring together diverse neighbors and build community. Part of the space is protected by Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, but another section was for sale last year. NGT worked with the gardeners, community, city and state to raise the funds to be able to purchase and permanently preserve the land. Everyone is breathing a sigh of relief.

What do you wish people knew about you?

Vacant land speculation is Philadelphia is increasing, and many community gardens are in danger of being lost at sheriff’s sale. Figuring out a pathway to preservation for each land parcel at a community garden is complicated. NGT has a proven track record, and we are working hard to keep up with the real estate market and to advocate for better city policies to support open space protection. We need resources to save more vital gardens before it is too late.

How can people get involved?
NGT needs your support to protect community gardens and shared open spaces. This process takes money, time and advocacy. To get involved, please consider making a charitable donation at ngtrust.org/donate. Volunteers are sometimes needed for workdays to help maintain these open spaces. You can raise awareness of the importance of protecting neighborhood green spaces by spreading the word to friends, family and your local government representatives. Sign up for NGT’s monthly e-newsletter for updates and follow us on social media @ngtrust.

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