After staring at a vacant, overgrown lot behind their home in West Philadelphia for a few years, a couple purchased the parcel and turned it into an urban farm through the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s City Harvest Grower’s Alliance Program, which provides supplies for homeowners interested in running their own urban farm.

Yesterday, a small hill’s worth of a blend of top soil mushroom compost was delivered to the site at 5019 Baltimore Ave. by Haye Landscaping, a company that donates soil to various farms around the city for this initiative.

View from Baltimore Ave.

Closer look

Vanessa Jerolmack, a member of the Cedar Park Neighbors garden committee, works at the Greenhouse at UPenn. She bought her home on Catharine Street, which backs up to the backyards of homes facing Baltimore Avenue, because her yard got great sunlight, a important factor in her home gardening equation. Jerolmack and her husband had always thought about acquiring the lot behind their home, after all, if a building went up on the site it would block much of their sunlight. An opportunity presented itself last year when the lot went on the market, and the couple purchased it for $40K.

New urban farm

Soil delivery

Jerolmack found out about the City Harvest program through a friend at Farm 51, a similar project located at 51st & Chester, just a few blocks away. Its practitioners sell the produce they grow at a farm-stand. The Jerolmack’s Baltimore Ave. farm will serve as an annex, subsidizing the Farm 51 project, and will sell extra produce grown at their farm to Farm 51. They will also donate some of their harvest to various organizations.

And, if, over time, a worthy developer becomes interested in the lot, which could become more enticing given the (hopefully) upcoming Apple Lofts development just two blocks, they are willing to consider letting the lot go for development. But in the meantime, break out the hoes!

–Lou Mancinelli