Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

“Bleacher Garden” at The Bridge Ecovillage spotlighted during PA Urban Ag Week

PA Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding and The Bridge CEO Garry Gilliam at the “bleacher garden”

Where fans once sat to watch football games at the old Bishop McDevitt School in Harrisburg, a dedicated gardening team now tends to cucumbers, lettuce and tomatoes.

On Wednesday, officials from The Bridge Ecovillage showed off their “bleacher garden” to state Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding during an Urban Ag Week celebration.

“These are folks who are making things happen,” Redding said of the state’s urban farmers. “The vibrancy of a community is predicated on being able to feed itself.”

Redding and staff from the Department of Agriculture are visiting urban gardens and farms across Pennsylvania during the week. The Bridge Ecovillage’s garden, located behind the old school building at 2200 Market St., was one of two stops in Harrisburg. In the afternoon, they moved on to tour the Camp Curtin YMCA’s community garden.

The garden is one of the first aspects to take shape of The Bridge’s plan to transform the old Bishop McDevitt school into apartments, event space, classrooms and restaurants, among other things.

“This is our contribution to our community,” said Garry Gilliam, CEO of The Bridge. “We want to play a role in converting Harrisburg from a food desert to a food oasis.”

The bleacher garden began in February and is managed by community organization City F.A.R.M. All of the food that is grown is given to local food banks and families who can receive produce from the garden on harvesting days.

According to Gilliam, they expect the garden to produce anywhere from 6,000 to 10,000 pounds of food within two years, enough for over 100 families. The garden grows produce like kale, scallions, tomatoes, turnips and cauliflower, among other items.

Many local groups from schools and organizations have volunteered at the garden, as well. The garden hosts volunteer days each week.

Gilliam added that The Bridge will begin the first phase of its building renovation project by the end of the year, which could take over a year to complete. They plan to begin by creating the “JEDII (Justice, Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion) Center,” which will serve as an event space. The ecovillage project as a whole is expected to be completed in 2026, Gilliam said.

For more information about The Bridge Ecovillage, visit their website.


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