LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — Discerning Eye Community Agriculture (DECA) works to educate and empower Lancaster City residents with local, urban agriculture. To further this mission, DECA is fundraising to build an urban farm in Lancaster County Central Park.

The goal of the new farming plot is to “show and prove to…folks of all ages who live in urban areas that you can sustain yourself, you can grow your own food, you don’t have to worry about where your next meal is coming from if you have the education and the resources to do it yourself,” says Hawa Lassanah, DECA’s founder and managing director.

The Backyard Farming Cooperative, a branch of DECA, is moving its farm from New Holland closer to downtown Lancaster, “further fulfilling our mission to advocate for hyper-local farming to increase agency for the urban dweller,” according to the project’s GoFundMe page.

Crops including tomatoes, lettuces and a rainbow of basils will be grown in the County Park garden, which will also have an educational component demonstrating vertical and hydroponic farming — two farming techniques that can be used in urban settings with minimal ground space.

Hawa Lassanah stands in front of her hydroponic build (Photo courtesy of Hawa Lassanah)

“Growing up, I didn’t have any visual or educational resources on how to sustain ourselves, like our small little family with myself and my single mom, and I think if I had some of those resources, I could have eased the burden for her trying to provide for us,” says Lassanah.

In addition to serving as an educational resource, the products grown in the garden will be available to residents of downtown Lancaster through the Backyard Farming Cooperative’s CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) bicycle delivery service.

DECA aims to create agency in and access to the fresh food industry through the work of the three sister companies of which it is comprised. Lassanah says this initiative is important in helping combat food insecurity.

According to Feeding America, there were 46,840 people facing food insecurity in Lancaster County in 2018, the most recent year for which this data is available. The food insecurity rate for the county was 8.7%, and in 2020, Feeding America estimates that this rate increased to 12.7% due to the impacts of COVID-19.

“Without the resources and education to help sustain our communities, they become even more at risk and even more vulnerable,” says Lassanah. “The more that we can fortify our communities through their actual physical health, their mental health, and the social health of our communities by working together and gaining abundance together…it lifts everyone up.”

Elliot Martin at his farm/garden in New Holland, Lancaster County (Photo courtesy of Hawa Lassanah)

The Backyard Farming Cooperative emphasizes the element of community in its work. The produce shared through its CSA delivery service is either grown in the cooperative’s farm or in the gardens of backyard farmers who join the cooperative.

“When we work together, once again, and do it as a team, we make sure everybody eats and everybody sustains. When everybody’s taken care of, we all benefit,” says Lassanah.