New Kensington community garden finds new home at Salvation Army

New Kensington’s community garden is set to take root in a new home in the city.

The vegetable garden, previously located along Fifth Avenue between Eighth and Ninth streets, is set to be rebuilt and replanted this year on the grounds of the Salvation Army off Industrial Boulevard.

The New Kensington Salvation Army is located in the former Fort Crawford Elementary School on Third Street. The Salvation Army bought the building from the New Kensington-Arnold School District in 2019.

The garden, established in 2012, had been located where the new Digital Foundry is under construction on Fifth Avenue. That new facility is scheduled to open this year.

That parcel became vacant land after the demolition of buildings damaged in a December 2006 fire, including the then-vacant former Pittsburgh Beauty Academy.

Patrick Coulson, director of the Westmoreland County Community College New Kensington campus and volunteer garden director, said they wanted to partner with another organization in finding a new home for the garden. He met with Maj. Scott Flanders shortly after he and his wife, Leslie, took over leadership of the New Kensington Salvation Army.

“We are a community organization. We’re here to bring the community together,” Flanders said. “When the garden was displaced and they approached me, it was a no-brainer. We welcome them with open arms.”

Being called the “New Kensington Community Garden 2.0,” it will be similar in size to the original garden, Coulson said. City Councilman Dante Cicconi, a landscape architect, is designing it.

One greenhouse will be located at the garden, while a second is at the college, Coulson said.

The garden is being supported by a $30,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County.

Coulson said work on the garden is expected to start in April with planting in May, and it will be producing this year.

Most of the vegetables grown at the garden will be distributed through the Salvation Army, Coulson said. It will also have private beds that residents will maintain themselves.

Unlike Tarentum’s Greg Blythe Friendship Garden, it will not be open for people to pick from on their own.

The New Kensington garden’s bounty will go into the Salvation Army’s food pantry, Sally’s Market, which is set up like a small grocery store. Flanders said it will complement the pantry, where he said they want to have fresh food alternatives for people.

“We are moving away from the ramen noodles and the Cup-a-Soup. We want to encourage people to make healthier choices,” he said. “It will supply us with fresh produce to pass on to people in need.”

The playground outside the Salvation Army will remain, Flanders said.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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