Two of the biggest issues urban farmers face is limited space and limited resources. Neighborhood Foods is a joint collaboration between two Philly organizations and the farms they operate to generate resources, access more land, reach a bigger audience and bring attention to urban-greening and the farm-to-table movement, while providing fresh local produce.

Looks tasty

Through Neighborhood Foods, for $600, beginning in mid-May and lasting until mid-October (deadline for sign-ups is April 30), participants will receive a box of produce (lettuce, radishes, scallions, broccoli etc. early in the season, plus cucumbers, carrots, peaches and more as the season evolves) once a week. By paying up front, the costs of soil, seeds and materials are covered, thus supporting the local community and its farm by reducing the potential for lost investment raising crops that might not sell otherwise.

The initiative is a joint venture between The Enterprise Center Community Development Corporation (TEC-CDC) and Urban Tree Connection. Both of those entities operate community farms in Philadelphia that offer programs designed to benefit people living in disadvantaged neighborhoods. The Enterprise Center CDC operates a farm located at 46th and Market Sts. and works with members of the Walnut Hill Community. The Urban Tree farm is located at 52nd & Wyalusing and serves members of the Haddington community.

Walnut Hill farm

Neighborhood Foods goal, in addition to providing residents with healthy produce grown by farmers they know, “is to support our communities, which are low-income communities in West Philadelphia,” says Allison Blansfield of ECCDC.

One of the ECCDC programs is designed for the younger generation and allows youths to oversee operations at the farm as well as sell produce at a farm stand, as well at the SEPTA employees’ farmer’s market.

Closer look at Walnut Hill farm rows

In addition to the box o’ produce, for an additional $30, participants can include a monthly honey or jam share. There are also options to include fresh bread, at an additional cost. Shares can be picked up at one of four locations (The Walnut Hill Community Farm, Four Worlds Bakery, Rittenhouse Square Farmer’s Market and in Narberth).

Is anybody else a little surprised about the presence of these active urban farms in West Philly? As recently as three years ago, the Walnut Hill Community Farm was a vacant SEPTA-owned lot that had previously been used for equipment storage. Members of the TEC-CDC worked out a 30-year lease for $1/year with SEPTA officials. It includes 15 plots that community members can use. These farms serve as excellent examples of one way to reuse blighted lots that have been bogged down by bureaucracy and generate community interest while helping to serve the health needs of local residents.

Keep up the good work, folks.

–Lou Mancinelli

Photo credit: All photos from West Philly Food site.