Lawrenceville has lots going for it: distinctive architecture, trendy boutiques and bars, the occasional post-industrial ruin. But one thing it's short on: arable land. That's why its organic community garden is located inside Allegheny Cemetery, one of the neighborhood's few large tracts of green space.
"We're not on top of any graves," stresses Deirdre Kane of the Lawrenceville Organic Community Garden. The 40- by-40-foot plot is tucked in the historic graveyard's northernmost tip, and it's a surprisingly lively place. First established by employees of Allegheny Valley Bank, the garden is now tended by a core group of 10 neighborhood volunteers, who mostly work Saturdays between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Kane and fellow co-coordinator Cleo Zell are now in their third year of raising vegetables and herbs. The rewards are obvious, says Zell: "Lots of exercise, sun, a connection with nature and the neighborhood." Not to mention free food: Volunteers take home the harvest, though sometimes — as when the garden grew more habañero peppers than anyone could eat last year — produce is donated to nearby restaurants.
Kane and Zell, who credit neighborhood group Lawrenceville United for its support, have big plans for the garden and its surroundings. A website is on the way, and this year, they hope to have Lawrenceville coffeehouses contribute coffee grounds to the compost heap. Most importantly, they see smaller gardens taking root nearby, adding to a neighborhood that has everything but green.
Says Kane, a lifelong Lawrenceville resident, "This isn't just about food for me."