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Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture visits abandoned high school turned urban farm

Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding visited two urban farm sites in Dauphin County as part of Pennsylvania's fifth annual Urban Agriculture Week celebration.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Real estate development company The Bridge is working to turn an abandoned high school into an ecovillage.

Founded by former Penn State and NFL players alongside Harrisburg natives, The Bridge strives to create a system of self-empowerment and sustainability.

The company is currently working to transform the old Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg into an ecovillage with housing, commercial and retail space, co-working, urban agriculture, an innovation/education center and entertainment.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Reading toured the facility on Wednesday in a continuation of Pennsylvania's celebration of Urban Agriculture Week.

He spoke to community leaders about combatting food insecurity and farming their own crops.

"If agriculture isn't part of your revolution, I don't believe there'll be anything beyond that," Garry Gilliam, CEO of The Bridge's ecovillage said. "As Russell Reading said, 'you can't feed a hungry mind with a starving belly.'"

Urban Agriculture Week was first recognized in 2018. Since then, more than $1.5 million has been invested in nearly 100 urban agriculture projects across the state.

The ecovillage will be an indoor, urban, closed-loop farming facility for local fresh food production of vegetables, leafy greens and herbs. 

The urban gardens at the ecovillage serve to combat food insecurity. They work to garner community interest in growing their own food and pursuing food and agriculture-related careers.

The community center will also promote urban sustainability with hands-on learning and resource sharing. Plans for the facility boast a STEEM Center (extra E for entrepreneurship), financial literacy workshops, community real estate fund, job training and more.

The Bridge strives to show how growing food together can contribute to solving complex urban challenges.

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