Community farm takes root in Southwest Philly

Bartram's Garden

Julie McWilliams

The site of the future community garden, which will contain plots that area residents can plant and tend themselves.

West Philadelphia youth who have been growing vegetables in their schoolyards or in small plots around their neighborhoods as part of Penn’s Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative (AUNI) can soon till a real field, orchard and berry patch at the new Community Farm and Food Resource Center at Bartram’s Garden.

A collaboration between the AUNI, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), Bartram’s Garden and the City of Philadelphia, the 3.5-acre site—formally an underutilized ball field—will be home to a one-acre green space for planting and picking vegetables.

The farm will contain individual plots that residents can cultivate themselves, an orchard of 50 fruit trees, a 1,000-foot-long perennial berry patch and a new greenhouse to start organic seedlings. 

A groundbreaking celebration for the farm will be held at Bartram’s Garden, 54th St. and Lindbergh Blvd., on Thursday, Oct. 27, at 4 p.m. Area residents are invited to sign up for community garden plots, take part in a garlic planting and enjoy youth-led farm tours, followed by a reception with locally sourced refreshments.

“The project’s goal is to increase the community’s access to local, organic, affordable, nutritious and culturally relevant food, and to provide a space for everyone to develop a relationship with the land,” says Tyler Holmberg, project director of the Community Farm and Resource Center. “AUNI plans to expand its youth development program by hiring 12 Bartram High School students to plant, grow, harvest and sell the produce.”

All programs are designed to engage interested Southwest Philadelphia residents in healthy cooking and gardening. The PHS will provide seedlings, resources and supplies to urban growers, and Bartram’s Garden will enhance its youth programming component and implement the orchard project.

Unfinished Plot

Julie McWilliams

The underutilized ballfield will be replaced by a vegetable garden cared for by local high school students in Penn's Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative.

Future plans call for the construction of a food education center with a kitchen and classroom space, a packing shed/walk-in cooler/wash station for vegetable preparation before sale and a brick oven for baking.

The project has been designated as one of PHS’s three green resource centers funded through a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Additional funders include the John Bartram Association, the Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation and the S.L. Gimbel Foundation.

Community members interested in speaking at the event should call 518-304-3402 or email tyholmberg@gmail.com by Oct. 24.

Originally published on October 20, 2011