We wanted to thank the Henry L.Hillman Foundation for generous support! Our goal is break ground in early November. Stay tuned!
Latham St. Commons focuses on improving the health of all people living in the Garfield and Friendship neighborhoods of Pittsburgh by addressing their social, educational and economic needs. We do this by creating a place where the community can gather to test new ideas and try out new ways of living. All the while, we’re re-connecting a community through relationships—from person to person, person to community, and person to nature.
No matter what we do—from growing micro-greens and educating local teens to forging partnerships with like-minded organizations—we use these fives areas to focus our goals and objectives. Our programming and activities may change over time, but these focus areas will not.
– People and place: Build vibrant community through inclusion and engagement.
– Education and economics: Cultivate new relationships and business
opportunities through innovation and hands-on learning.
– Social: Connect neighbors by sharing in-person, online and around town.
– Nature: Co-design a sustainable eco-system and restore natural capital.
– Health: Nurture and care for people’s health and happiness.
Our 2016 season kicks off with a beautiful passage from John Thackara's new book: How to Thrive In The Next Economy...“Quietly, for the most part communities the world over are growing a replacement economy from the ground up. Their number includes energy angels and wind wizards and watershed managers. These are the bioregional planners, ecological historians, and citizen foresters Alongside dam removers, river restores and river harvesters, there urban farmers, seed bankers and master conservers. You might also meet the building dismantlers, office-block refurbishers and barn raisers. There are natural painters, and green plumbers. There are trailer-park renewers and land-share brokers. The movement involves computer recyclers, hardware re-mixers, and textile upcyclers. It extends to local currency designers. There are community doctors. And elder cares, And ecological teachers. http://www.doorsofperception.com
We are thrilled to learn we received a matching grant from PWSA Green Infrastructure grant program to install a bioswale and pervious pavers to help manage our stormwater.
Please stay in-touch and as always we are looking for volunteers to help get the season underway.
Latham St. Commons is both a place and a dream. Today, it’s a parcel of land surrounded by 19th-century garages, half a block from the hustle-bustle of Penn Avenue in the East End of Pittsburgh. We dream of it becoming a place where neighbors come together to learn, grow and create positive, sustainable change in the community. To make this dream a reality, we’ll focus on the critical intersection of food and health as a vehicle for social change. Our goal is simple: we provide the space and resources for the community to grow in whichever way it desires. LSC is not something imposed upon the community, but rather something that grows out of the community, and reflects the people within it.
Our team will spend the next few months planning the next steps for Latham St. Commons. We hope you will continue to follow our story in Spring 2016.
We are thrilled to be a part of the Friendship House Tour! Stop over to the Commons for a sweet treat, meet the team and learn about future plans for the space.
Information about purchasing tour tickets can be purchased at:
Hope to see you Sunday!
Let's face it. Sometimes, we wake up on the wrong side of the bed, and it can feel like we're unable to do anything right. For me, Friday was my day to feel beaten down by the muggy Pittsburgh heat that had been happening all week. I dragged myself to the garden, expecting to see the plants fried by the hot hot sun, and as I began to slowly water and prune through all the pots and barrels and beds, it felt hopeless. Not only was it tedious, but I couldn't end the millions of thoughts running through my head that were disheartening my workload. As I addressed the individual problems and fix-ups around the Commons one by one, and saw the drooping cucumbers, smooshed tomatoes, and dried up soil, it felt like I really wasn't making much of a difference.
Then something changed.
Glancing up for a moment, I was able to see the bigger picture. And it was the most beautiful thing I had seen all week. I had just finished watering when I noticed the plants had begun to breathe again. All the garden had needed was a bit of water and to be touched up a bit. It doesn't take much, but gardening can be one of the most encouraging aspects of life if you take a small amount of time every week and give a little. It reminded me to look at the bigger picture rather than the messy details every once in awhile, because when you broaden your perspective and see any problem at a different angle, it can be very rewarding.
Just like this:
John and I spent Tuesday afternoon making deliveries throughout Garfield. It was beautiful weather, and there were plenty of people enjoying their front porches on a hot summer day.
Last week Eryka and I had a chance to make deliveries in Garfield together. It was a particularly humid and sticky day, but we marched up the hill with a bag full of salad greens and positive attitudes. It was on this delivery that I noticed a change in how we were being received by various members of the community. Instead of suspicious looks that left us feeling out of place, we were actually beginning to be recognized by people we had had conversations with in the past. With this feeling, I recognized a critical shift taking place with this project. We were no longer outsiders, but were beginning to be woven into the already developed community of Garfield. Talk about encouraging!
Projects like Latham Street that focus on community outreach often lack several key points to becoming successful and being well received, and though some of these points may seem obvious, it takes a certain amount of patience and awareness of the present moment for it to work. First of all, consistency. The more that we can be present within a space, and a small space at that, trust begins to be built. Not necessarily a deep trust, but just a growing assumption that we are around, we are here, and we're going to grow food down the street regardless. Secondly, it is crucial to remember the element of time. Time doesn't slow down, it doesn't speed up, so neither should we. Taking it one step at a time, being present to every conversation and paying attention to the little details is what really gives a clearer message to the people around. Because this is the beginning phases of a bigger project, it isn't about the amount of salad we give, the aesthetic of our garden, or the movement and bustle of events that take place on site. It's about meeting the community wherever the community is, and that means matching the pace of their lifestyle, understanding their day-to-day lives, and finding connection between the two. In other words, it isn't a one way street--it's both giving and taking, like any relationship should be.
I had a very special moment with Eryka last week, where I was reminded of how the true concept of community cannot be a one way street. We were talking about the project, and I was asking for more of her perspective on what she's seen going on around her. The beginning of our conversation was slightly formal and rigid, but as we continued talking I began to feel that this younger member of the community had a beautiful vision of what her dreams were for the future. More importantly than the future, what was happening in her present world. Where she had not had too many friends in her immediate surroundings, she now had several because of Latham Street. As we chatted more, it dawned on me that it was not only our team that had had an impact on her, but her who had had an impact on us. Every day I spend with Eryka I feel encouraged by her perseverance, determination, and bravery to try such new things at such a young age.
So if this is just the beginning of the relationships that emerge through Latham Street, what might the future hold?
Our second Mash-Up event was an incredible conglomeration of activities and passer-bys. Thankfully, the weather held up for those 3 fun-filled hours and we were able to walk visitors through the space and listen to their input on the possibilities for the future. Not only did we have chickens, but free haircuts, and a small local artists pop-up shop. The activities allowed people to envision the space in a very literal way, to get clearer inspiration on what could become of the empty storage houses underneath our blossoming garden.
What can you imagine for the space?
So what now? We've gathered more ideas and brainstormed out all the possibilities. Seed exchange? Chicken coop? Market place? Coffee shop?
Send us your feedback!
Friday was another trial run for the second set of deliveries from Latham Street Commons. This time, there was much more to be harvested, and we spent the afternoon walking up and down the neighborhood getting a sense for what was going on in the community that day. Unlike the previous week, we sought out the people who were gathered on their porches rather than leaving a small surprise on their doorstep. We rang doorbells, went from house to house, and were met with surprised and smiling faces.
Door to door encounters often involve defensive and bothered responses in certain sales opportunities. Some people immediately opened the door and said "I don't have any money, sorry.", to which we were able to respond: "We aren't asking for money, we just want to share a small piece of our garden with you." The body language, the facial expressions, and entire demeanor changed once they realized that this was much different than some elaborate marketing scheme. It was encouraging to meet other like-minded people within such close proximity of each other. Whether it was someone who values the quality of their food, or someone who values casual conversation outside their doorstep, we had an amazing experience.
Excited for the next harvest! Come to Latham's event this Friday. Mash-Up #2!
Someone sent us a text message of the greens they used to make a salad, how sweet!