Friday, July 29, 2011

Viewing the Charms of Nature, City Style

Summertime is in full swing; a great time to view what is growing. I took a day to visit farms and friends in Philadelphia and am thrilled how they are thriving. There are many urban farms models; some are non-profits with a mission to educate and serve the hungry, others are more of a business model intending to provide a source of income for an entrepreneur, others are a combination. On this unbearably hot July day, I saw all three versions.

My first stop was The SHARE Food Program garden. SHARE is a nonprofit organization serving a regional network of community organizations engaged in food distribution, education, and advocacy. The gardens are on every possible piece of land around the massive warehouse located on Hunting Park Ave in Philadelphia. A nice surprise was to see a Penn State Extension’s High Tunnel right next to the TastyKake Factory. By the end of summer 2011 ten high tunnels will dot the city landscape helping to feed and educate a greener Philadelphia.

Penn State High Tunnel at Philly’s SHARE garden.

My next visit was to see our former intern who spent the 2007 season with us at Scarecrow Hill in Lancaster County. She told us she was planning to farm in Philadelphia, and by jove, she’s done it! The dreamy secret garden was an abandoned lot full of junk, including two ice-cream trucks when Amanda Staples and Matt McFarland purchased it in 2008. Now the ½ acre Germantown Kitchen Garden grows 30 crops which provides for an 8 family CSA and a farm stand which operates on Wednesdays afternoons at 215 E Penn St Philadelphia, PA 19144. A fun surprise was to see a former CSA shareholder of Scarecrow Hill stopping by the stand. Local has gotten a whole lot more local for this committed foodie.

Amanda at her farm stand, with lush urban farm in background.

My final stop of the day was at the Elkins Estate, Elkins Park, PA. This 42 acre oasis was rescued from demolition in 2009 by the Land Conservancy of Elkins Park Inc. Land, greenhouses and packing house are rented to Streamside Farm whose mission is to improve community access to healthy food and offering educational programming. The farm is run by Meei Ling Ng and her husband Larry Shaeffer. Their produce and beautiful flowers are sold at food co-ops and farmers markets in the Philadelphia area.

Philadelphia is really leading the way in urban farming. There are many more thriving urban farms to visit and buy from in the Philly region. To learn more, see links below:

I think you would be especially excited to see the Grumblethorpe, Teens 4 Good, and Schuylkill Center locations:

Written by Peggy Fogarty-Harnish

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