Program Area: ReClaim

Topic: Community Engagement, Community Gardens, Education, Vacant Land, Workforce Development, Youth

Year: 2011, 2012, 2013

Neighborhood: Allentown, Bloomfield, Braddock, Braddock Hills, California Kirkbride, Central Northside, Dormont, East Allegheny, East Liberty, Elizabeth Borough, Etna, Garfield, Hazelwood, Hill District, Homestead, Homewood, Larimer, Lawrenceville, Manchester, Millvale, Mt. Washington, New Orleans, Oakland, Perry Hilltop, Perry South, Sharpsburg, Spring Hill, Swissvale, Tarentum, Troy Hill, Uptown, Verona, Wilkinsburg

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Gtech sunflower harvest - 23

Homewood - 2013


Sunflowers are a one-season transition strategy to reduce blight and brighten a vacant lot. This strategy improves the soil condition by absorbing toxins and prevents erosion. Sunflowers are planted in the spring and harvested in the fall with the assistance of community partners. The ReClaim team employs various workforce development groups, youth groups, and neighborhood organizations to maintain the gardens throughout the growing season.  After the sunflowers bloom, we host a harvest event to celebrate the end of the season.

Project Goals & Activities

Taking action where action is possible is a central tenant to GTECH’s approach.  The act of removing brick and rubble from the ground and cultivating sunflowers bursting from a vacant lot can change people’s perception of a place.  Not only does this help generate energy within their  community it can help people of all ages and backgrounds to get more hands on experience with the green economy.

Impact & Outcomes

The 2013 Homewood Sunflower Garden has helped over a dozen youth through Operation Better Block’s Jr. Green Corps get hands on experience and environmental education growing and managing over 11,000 sq. ft. of sunflowers on a vacant lot.  These sunflowers are improving the soil quality and are serving as a unique platform of education to learn about alternative energy and appropriate technology.

Not only is this one more vacant lot that is maintained in better condition - we hope this vacant lot serves as a catalyst for helping a community re-imagine a place and think about how to continue building out a more healthy community.