Couple hold stakes in Natrona community garden |
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When they’re young, many couples start to put down roots.

This summer, James and Sarah Buss have done that literally and helped a number of others in their community do the same.

As members of the Natrona Comes Together Association, a group dedicated to improvements in the Natrona section of Harrison Township, the Busses have been at the helm of efforts to develop a community garden with the Allegheny Grows program.

Natrona was one of only three communities in the county this year to receive support for such a project. The other two are gardens in Penn Hills and Clairton. The Allegheny Grows program is supported by the Allegheny County Economic Development Office.

Leadership from Natrona Comes Together credits the couple with playing key roles in the project.

“They’re really involved with us because they have an investment in this town and it’s their future,” said NCTA President Bill Godfrey. “They really give me hope in the new generation because they are just such wonderful people.”

Patty Walters, the association’s secretary, describes the two as organizers.

“Jim and Sarah were in it from the get-go,” she said. “They’ve been helping all they can and whenever they can.”

Among Sarah Buss’s efforts are serving as a contact for those involved. Her husband does a lot of the labor, leading efforts to build boxes for the raised garden beds and tilling in and around the garden. The couple also opened their house for meetings.

In addition, Godfrey said, the Busses took classes about composting through Allegheny Grows, collected rainwater for the garden and built a shed at the site.

“Work needed to be done, and we wanted the community to get together,” Sarah Buss said when asked about their reasons for getting involved.

On a recent sunny summer afternoon, it was clear that the couple’s mission was accomplished as neighbors gathered to weed, water and pick the ripe selections from the garden, which includes more than a dozen raised planter beds.

Ranging from deep green peppers to bushy tomato plants to colorful rainbow chard and a bounty of things in between, the garden is maintained by community members who are able to harvest food from their boxes and share the surplus with food banks.

There’s something else the Busses wanted to share: an appreciation of gardening with a younger generation.

“We’ve been trying to get them to learn how to plant and water and things like that,” James Buss said.

The couple’s efforts extend beyond the garden’s borders into the rest of Natrona. Those activities include everything from river cleanups and concerts to fundraisers and community celebrations.

Though helping out keeps them busy, the Busses enjoy even the simplest aspects of being involved.

“It’s nice to see our neighbors,” James Buss said.

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