From Farm… to Sidewalk
July 15th, 2011 - By Therese Madden
Here the footprint from farm to consumer is just that — a few steps! This urban farm offers a weekly stand in West Philadelphia bringing just-picked vegetables to a neighborhood that previously had few choices for fresh produce.
Moving to a new neighborhood is much more than dragging your furniture to yet another house. It often takes a while if you want to feel like part of the community. Here's some advice from West Philadelphia resident, Andrew Olson, "I always say there is nothing like planting a garden or planting a farm to get to know your neighbors, especially when you are renting. Renters have the reputation of not really caring about the community."
And that’s just what Olson has done. He's built a small farm, Farm51, on the lot next to his apartment at 51st and Chester. The once junk covered piece of land is now bursting with collard greens, cucumbers, kale, even flowers. Once a week, Olson and his partner, Neal Santos sell their produce at a farm stand on site. They set up by the sidewalk, and keep the prices deliberately low, "I can't believe that the prices are so affordable," says Amirah Niam who just bought a bunch of vegetables, she spent about $3. "This is the freshest vegetables we've ever had. To have carrots just pulled from the ground to have for dinner, thats awesome right?"
Plus, there's only one supermarket close by and according to Niam, it leaves something to be desired, "even the supermarket that is in this area, the produce isn't really
good produce. So, this is truly a food desert, so its wonderful what they are doing just bringing fresh food here." And that's the point. Farm51 is a member of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's City Harvest Grower's Alliance. The program encourages community members to grow food in neighborhoods that are lacking options, plus it provides tools and guidance.
There is a hope that for some growers this could be a way to make extra money, but as Neal Santos explains this isn't why they do it, "I love the neighborhood. I love the people around the neighborhood, there's a spirit amongst the neighbors, feels good to contribute and also belong."
"And it's beautiful, it's like a paradise in the hood," says Sasha Jones, she lives in the row home next door to Farm51, stopping by for some purple carrots, she offers her opinion. "I love what they do with the neighborhood, as you can see there is a lot of trash around and they just make it look really beautiful, and I love the fact that they welcome all the neighborhood kids in there no matter how old they are, and my son comes over here almost everyday so…"
But what about those purple carrots she just bought? "Yeah, I'm gonna taste one right now… *crunch*… hmmmm… they're delicious."
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