GROW Franklin Geared Toward Turning Community ‘Green’

| April 8, 2014

FRANKLIN, Pa. (EYT) – In the winter of 2013, the vision and the brains behind GROW Franklin, chatted over a cup of coffee, creating the concept of turning the small city into a “green” community.

The movement began when Susan Astorino Byers and Amy Chaney sat down and began discussing an idea they both shared – health and wellness.

“We were noticing and envisioning a large shift in the way people connect with food and agriculture,” Byers said. “It was agreed that a community garden would be a great asset to our city. What started as this beautifully simple idea, organically grew into a very complex vision to GROW Franklin.”

Byers and Chaney explained when they started searching for usable land in Franklin they could not find any suitable, empty plots. The pair then “looked up” and realized rooftops were the city’s greatest untapped resource. They began to research the benefits of ‘rooftop gardens’ and ‘green roofs’– the benefits to both the building and the community emerged, and the two began their journey, planting their roots in GROW Franklin.

Recently, at Bosa Nova Café Roastery in Franklin, the female duo sat down for an interview with to discuss their passions towards health, wellness, community, and social action.

In their own lighthearted banter, the two explained their vision started to become a reality in part to each of their strengths.

“I am the one with ideas, and Amy pays attention to the details,” Byers said. “Together we have become a perfect team. We are volunteers. We have put in our own money and a lot of our own time towards this movement. It has become our passion.”

The mission of the organization is to GROW Franklin by providing green roofs and rooftop gardens in a manner embracing and enhancing community involvement, nurturing health and lifestyle choices, highlighting the area, and fostering eco-tourism.

Currently, as the product of countless meetings and planning sessions, GROW Franklin has three major city buildings and a possibility of a local bank considering green roofs and/or rooftops gardens. The Franklin Library has approved a structural engineer to assess whether their building is suitable for a rooftop garden; the local YMCA has approved their building to be assessed for a rooftop community garden; and Franklin City Council is exploring the idea for their building to be an example of a green rooftop.

“Ideas have branched off by word of mouth,” Chaney said. “We want to keep things positive. We are taking one step at a time, but it could be something positive in area residents’ lives and their families that would be affordable.”

The organization has recently partnered with the Franklin Gardeners Association to create community gardens in the downtown area. The community garden would allow residents to rent a garden plot for the summer. Each raised bed will be four-foot by six-foot, filled with soil and cost $15 for the season. The garden will be located next to Central Elementary School.

“The community garden will provide an environment to grow flowers, herbs, fruits, and vegetables in a manner embracing community involvement and nurturing healthy lifestyle choices,” Chaney said.

Other projects the organization has in progress include planned screenings of “Growing Cities,” a documentary of urban farming in America; a ‘butterfly garden’ to be planted at The Franklin Library by a local Girl Scout troop; “Harvest Drop” based on area gardeners dropping off extra produce at Bosa Nova coffee shop for distribution to local food pantries; and ‘GROWfest,’ a music festival promoting yoga, wellness, organic food, and the arts.

“We use the concept of GROWing as a dynamic action verb. We do literally mean to plant seeds and grow plants throughout our community,” Byers said. “We also mean to grow our community. We want to grow ideas, grow awareness, grow in wellness, and grow business…all working together to GROW Franklin which is already rich in community infrastructure (bike trail/waterways/history) into an even healthier, more vital and vibrant community to live, work, and play.”

The organization is currently raising funds to hire a structural engineer to assess local buildings that are under consideration for green roofs and rooftop gardens.

GROW Franklin Upcoming Events:

  • GROW Franklin General Meeting, 6 p.m. April 8 at The Franklin Area Chamber of Commerce. Open to anyone.
  • Beginner’s Gardening Class,  6-8 p.m. April 16 at the Franklin Public Library. Free to all participants.
  • MayMart, May 3rd and 4th. Seed giveaway, seedling sales, pledge drive, and ‘upcycled craft’ fundraiser.
  • Canning and Preserving Class with Penn State Extension office, August 11 at Amazing Foods Restaurant.

For more information on GROW Franklin visit their Facebook page:

Susan Astorino Byers and Amy Chaney co-founders of GROW Franklin.


Susan Astorino Byers and Amy Chaney at a Rotary Club meeting in Franklin presenting their plans for rooftop gardens.

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