Yet another orientation entry...
On Saturday we were invited to participate in one of several tours of Philadelphia. The tour that I chose was given by City Planning professor Domenic Vitiello. Domenic's current research involves community gardening and urban farming. We started out from Meyerson Hall and caught the #10 trolley out through West Philly. From the trolley stop we walked down through a Hope VI housing project. The new townhouses of the Lucien E. Blackwell Homes replace Mill Creek Apartments, a mix of low-rise and high-rise buildings that were designed by Louis Kahn in 1950.
ATTRA (The National Sustainable Agricultural Information Service) features urban farming in their August issue. You'll find lots of great stories and resources about urban farming there, including a listing for Mill Creek Farm.
May 21, 2008
"We try to grow a variety, especially things that are popular in the neighborhood but aren't available affordably or fresh. We sell produce at a farmers market, Mariposa food market and some smaller cafes, and donate to food cupboards and a women's shelter. People are excited to buy stuff that's grown in the neighborhood without chemicals. A lot of seniors use their farmers market coupons with us, which is great. We're in our third growing season. The other co-director, Jade Walker, and I were working for the Urban Nutrition Initiative and put a proposal forward to start a farm. We grow vegetables, fruits and herbs. The summer I got out of high school I got a job at a farm and I've been farming ever since. Jade has been farming for more than 10 years and learned how through experience rather than schooling. The two of us are the only paid staff, but we couldn't do it without all the volunteer help."
The City Paper Sends Out a Reporter to Work the Land: City Paper writer Sam Tremble volunteers at Mill Creek, then sits down to write about it.
A tangled heap of bikes chained and locked to more bikes marks the entrance to Mill Creek Farm. There's no silo, no tractors, not even a weather vane. The land, about an acre and a half on the 4900 block of Brown, sits next to the houses on the street with no more separation than a chain-link fence lined with fruit trees. I had at least expected some sort of quaint country dirt path, but it's just part of the neighborhood, just like the abandoned lots I rode past on the way over. House. House. Farm! House.
Mill Creek mentioned in new In These Times article: In its August 24 article, "Farming the Concrete Jungle," In These Times authors explore the growth of urban farming across the country, and mention Mill Creek's work in Philadelphia. Check it out.
On the other side of the country, on a formerly abandoned lot in West Philadelphia, Jade Walker and Johanna Rosen, both 27, are growing produce and selling it to local residents at dirt-cheap prices.
Both Walker and Rosen are former employees of the Urban Nutrition Initiative (UNI), a project of the University of Pennsylvania that teaches children in the public schools about nutrition and wellness. When the two women decided they wanted to reach more community members and grow more crops than they could in the school gardens, they applied for a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to start Mill Creek Farm.
The farm’s mission is twofold: to improve access to nutritious foods, and to promote sustainable resource use by growing and distributing produce and by demonstrating ecological methods of living.
Located in a low-income, predominantly African-American neighborhood, the farm shares an acre and a half with an established community garden. The land that wasn’t being used by the garden was filled with garbage, weeds, and drug activity, but the soil wasn’t contaminated. “We didn’t have to do any remediation,” says Rosen. “We just put in mushroom compost.”
In the summer of 2006, the farm’s first growing season, Walker, Rosen, and the few hundred volunteers who stopped by to lend a hand grew 50 varieties of fruit, vegetables, and herbs, giving some of it away and selling some from their on-site market. “Okra was our best seller,” says Rosen enthusiastically. “The farm is right on the corner; it’s a very visible site, and we would sell out of it even before our market opened.”
NPR's Justice Talking sent producer Ingrid Lakey out to Mill Creek Farm to talk to Johanna Rosen. Listen to the interview!
Community Gardening in Philadelphia: 2008 Harvest Report
By Dominic Vitiello and Michael Nairn, Penn Planning and Urban Studies, UPenn, October 2009
Sustainability in Philadelphia: Community Gardens and Their Role in Stormwater Management
Kevin Levy, URBS 400, December 19, 2008
Urban Agriculture: Enhancing Food Democracy in Philadelphia
A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Drexel University by Katharine A. Travaline in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Science, Technology, and Society, September 2008
Final Project: The Dimensions of Urban Agriculture
Werntz, Kathryn M., December 11, 2008
Cultivating Community and Place in Contested Space: Surveying the Moral Landscape of Urban Gardens
Thesis submitted to the Department of Anthropology Haverford College by Kit Basom, Haverford College, 2006
Fair Food for All: A chapter written by Jade Walker and Johanna Rosen as part of J.J. McCracken's installation at the Painted Bride entitled Hunger, Philadelphia
Mill Creek Farm Supports Greenworks Philadelphia: How the work of the Mill Creek Farm supports Mayor Nutter’s Greenworks Plan
In Defense of the Land: An article written by Jade Walker about preserving the land of the Mill Creek Farm
NPR "Justice Talking" Ingrid Lakey visits the Mill Creek Farm and speaks with co-director Johanna Rosen (February 2007)
Michaela Majune of WXPN interviews Johanna Rosen about the Mill Creek Farm (May 2009)
"School Days.. and Farm Days" Audio story plus photos from WHYY's Fit by Therese Madden (November 2010)
"Mill Creek Farm on NBC 10 #1"-- NBC 10 profiles three of Philadelphia's urban farming projects including Mill Creek Farm. (July 2008)
"Glimpses from 2008" -- Scenes from our summer bar-b-q, garlic planting, market stand and more!
"Mill Creek Farm on NBC 10 #2" -- NBC 10 stops by the Mill Creek Farm at the beginning of our 2010 growing season.
"A Postcard from Mill Creek Farm" -- Part of the Messages in Motion project.
"Kripa and Heather"-- A "field interview" with two of our wonderful interns. Also shot as part of MiM.
"Queer Farmer Film Project" -- A trailer for a soon-to-be-released documentary about the dynamic relationships between gender, sexuality, and agriculture.
Mill Creek Farm is an educational urban farm located in West Philadelphia that is dedicated to improving local access to fresh produce, building a healthy community and environment, and promoting a just and sustainable food system.
All charitable donations are tax-deductible. The Mill Creek Farm is a program of A Little Taste of Everything, a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.