Awbury Arboretum initiates community partnerships in the Northwest

After a period of reflection on how to boost Awbury Arboretum as a community hub, members of the Awbury Arboretum recently asked: ‘What is our greatest asset?’

Beth Miner, manager of outreach and community engagement at Awbury, says the answer is the 55-acres that the group owns. The arboretum, located in Germantown at One Awbury Road, hosts educational and service learning programs year-round, specifically in urban agriculture.

Faced with a shrinking budget, Awbury is connecting with local neighborhood associations to form partnerships.

“There are other non-profits who are looking for a space to host their projects,” said Miner, “and we want to link up with them, hear their ideas, and produce real community activity.”

With new bee-keeping, micro-farming, theater, and environmental programs in the works, the group is working towards its goal to make Awbury a community-centric place.

One of the partnerships that Awbury has started is with Green Sanctuary Earth Institute of Pennsylvania (GSEIPA). GSEIPA supports local urban growers in the Philadelphia region with an emphasis on local and sustainable food.

This spring, the arboretum will host three honey bee hives that will be pesticide-free. GSEIPA will work with the Philadelphia County 4-H Club and the Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild to design and manage the program, which includes beginners beekeeping classes. Awbury will own the beehives and hopes to bottle honey with its own label.

Another new partnership that Awbury has in the works is with the Quintessence Theatre Group, which plans to host summer classes at the arboretum. The group, based out of Mt. Airy, focuses on adaptations of classic literature and drama for the contemporary stage.

Awbury plans to initiate similar partnerships like the one they have with Weavers Way, which hosts its farm on the Washington Lane side of the property. A micro-farming program in the works, which involves utilizing small spaces, such as a window box, for growing food.

Miner says the long-term plan involves an “idealistic expansion” of the Arboretum in the Northwest.

“Activity is fulfilling our mission,” said Miner, “Now that we are creating partnerships, we have a potential for a lot great things.”

Awbury is also working towards making its main building, the Victorian-style Francis Cope House, a more usable space. The offices located on the first floor are being moved upstairs, which will allow the entire first floor to be utilized as a meeting space for community groups, for a rental fee.

Mark Sellers, chair of the board of directors at Awbury, says there has been difficulty with funding, but remains optimistic about working with other non-profits in the area.

“Awbury should be the hub of horticulture in the Northwest,” said Sellers, “we just have to do more, and work with our neighbors.”

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