Learn more about the Sister St. Mark Garden Fund & Our Partners

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden have served the Beaver County area since 1901. We commit ourselves, our energies and our resources to the mission of unity – unity of ourselves with God and with each other; unity of neighbor with neighbor; and unity of neighbor with God.

Always striving to respond to the needs of our times, the Sisters are working to reduce food insecurity through on-site gardens that supply local food pantries with fresh produce and financial support of community gardens who are serving their neighbors in need.

Together, and thanks to your incredible and sustained generosity, we are making a difference from urban neighborhoods in Pittsburgh to river towns along the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers to rural areas near our Congregation’s first convent in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania.

Visit the Gardens

Enjoy these video visits to some of our Sister St. Mark Garden Fund Grantees and our Motherhouse grounds!
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Since 2019, the Sister St. Mark Garden Fund has awarded 45 grants totaling $30,100.

Local garden groups are invited to apply for grants ranging from $250 up to $1,000 to help meet the needs of their community. Funding may be used for plants, seed, soil, tools or infrastructure to better equip volunteer gardeners to accomplish their goals. The grants are funded, in part, from the proceeds of Faith. Field. Feast., the annual farm-to-table dinner held on our grounds each fall.

In 2023, our garden partners:

Gave families in downtown Aliquippa a chance to garden together, within walking distance of their homes;

Launched a “Share Blessings” Farmer’s Market providing free, fresh produce to 120 families in Pittsburgh’s Hill District;

Made safety, accessibility, and structural enhancements to a garden that meets a large community need in Aliquippa, making it easier for volunteers to grow more food, keep weeds down, and water efficiently;

Welcomed nearly 300 children, ages 3-12 years old, to a community garden in Sewickley where they could help maintain the garden, plant new fruit trees, and pick produce to prepare and eat;

Donated nearly 1,000 pounds of organically-grown fruits and vegetables to a food pantry in Sharpsburg that serves lower-income families with young children, adding 12 new growing beds to their garden;

Shared 32 large catering trays of tomatoes and made more varieties of vegetables and herbs available to parishioners who lack access to healthy, fresh produce in a suburban Pittsburgh community;

Replaced two broken carts that volunteers use to harvest the vegetables and carry them from the fields of a large garden that supplies produce to more than 20 community sites near Altoona and Hollidaysburg;

Opened a Little Free Library at a community farm in the Garfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh stocked with seed packets and children’s books about gardening where families will often stop for storytime, learning about plants and wildlife together;

Protected plants with organic supplements and pesticides, allowing them to thrive and be shared with neighbors in Sharpsburg;

Helped youth in the Rochester school district gain access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs grown on site by members of the garden club, comprised of 6-11th grade students;

Engaged 215 preschoolers and older youth in planting, weeding, watering, and harvesting vegetables from a garden housed on the patio of a community library in Aliquippa that was then made available to all neighbors at the circulation desk.

Named for Sister St. Mark Lesko, who oversaw the Motherhouse grounds in the 1940s and 50s when it was a working farm that supplied much of the Sisters’ food, the Sister St. Mark Garden Fund supports the Congregation’s goals of:

Reducing food insecurity and providing healthy food choices for families and youth;

Sustaining community gardens in local neighborhoods; and

Building community through grassroots relationships and collaboration

Sister St. Mark Lesko, who was born on July 1, 1894, entered the Sisters of St. Joseph from St. John Parish in Johnstown, PA. She worked most of her religious life in the laundry of St. Joseph Hospital on Pittsburgh’s Southside.

When the doctors felt that Sister’s lungs were weakening from constant exposure to lint in the laundry, they advised her to change to an “open air” ministry. Sister St. Mark was then placed in charge of the farm at the Motherhouse.

Sister St. Mark was a gentle, quiet woman who spent her life in humble, untiring service. She died in 1960, just nine days after her 66th birthday.