Fifty-two-year-old Joseph Johnson and his team launched the Pleasant Playground Garden Committee to improve health and wellness.
ERIC MOODY: 52-year-old Joseph Johnson has always had a passion for gardening in Philadelphia's parks and recreation scene.
JOSEPH JOHNSON: Pleasant Playground was my home. I grew up here playing basketball, football, and baseball with a lot of my friends. John C Wright, who was the director here when I was a youth, inspired me because of the way in which he influenced me and impacted the other young gentlemen, young guys who grew up in that community.
ERIC MOODY: That inspiration led Joe to enroll at Temple University to major in parks and recreation management in 1987. But that goal was put on hold when Joe felt the calling to enlist in the Marines.
JOSEPH JOHNSON: I ended up serving 23 years in the military. While I was there, you know, part of me serving in the military was part of me, you know, my chance to give back. Sort of like, you know, how I'd envisioned giving back in the community.
After 23 years of service, Joe felt his previous aspirations circled back around. Once returning back to Philadelphia in 2016, Joe formed a group called the Pleasant Playground Garden Committee. The mission is to connect with other gardeners to create a nonprofit community garden on Pleasant Playground's 4.8 acre land.
I went to a two week permaculture course. And while I was there, I found out about a six month apprenticeship working on an organic farm. And then it was in that program, while I was there, one of the questions they asked us was what are you going to do with these skills that you're learning? And it was at that time, I had already decided that I was moving back to Philadelphia. I knew that the old building, the rec center, used to be on this spot here. And I found out that it was moved, and that this land was laying fallow. And I thought, hey, we can start a community garden.
ERIC MOODY: Joe aims to create more access to healthy foods and provide educational opportunities, along with a shared green space for Mount [? Airy ?] neighbors. My initial aspirations to work in the community was coming full circle, because I can bring those skills back that I was learning and apply them to teaching people in the community how to grow food.
ERIC MOODY: Joe says the committee's motto is simple.
JOSEPH JOHNSON: Our motto is to grow food, grow community. So that's our vision, is to have this be a space where individuals of all ages, all races can come together, grow food, and grow community.
ERIC MOODY: Reported from Philadelphia Eric moody channel six Action News.