The smell of pies and pressed apples passed quickly through the 2.5-acre Henry Got Crops farm in Roxborough this weekend at the “Harvest on Henry” fundraiser.
A halloween scarecrow stood on Henry Avenue, inviting families into the small farm across from W. B. Saul High School where children could paint pumpkins, bowl with pumpkins, golf with pumpkins and of course, eat pumpkin pie.
While some kids attached plastic wheels to vegetables and raced them down a sloped track, other youngsters pedaled on a stationary bicycle, generating the electricity to power a blender which was processing scraps into paper mache.
Henry Got Crops is an organic community supported agriculture (CSA) project that was created three years ago through a partnership between Weavers Way Co-Op and W.B. Saul High School for Agriculture. Each year members purchase a share of the harvest and come to the farm once a week to collect whatever has recently been picked.
“Every week, from June to November, we come out and pick whatever is fresh and local,” explains Denise Durkin, one of the event organizers. One share provides more than just fruits and vegetables grown in Roxborough. Members also regularly receive honey from We Bee Brothers in Germantown and goat cheese from Yellow Spring Farms in Chester County.
Both of the honey and cheese farmers were there to proudly offer samples of their wares.
This year, volunteers from the Henry Got Crops CSA created this autumn carnival fundraiser to help underserved families purchase shares of the crops, and also to spread awareness of the CSA to the community.
“We very much want to make connections with the young people in the area so they learn how food is grown organically,” Durkin says.
Nina Berryman is the farm manager and the “heart and soul of the farm” says Rachel Milenbach, Executive Director of the Weavers Way Community Programs.
“I am an informal teacher,” the 27-year-old Vermont native modestly shrugs. “I don’t go into classrooms. This is my classroom outside.”
As she teaches kids to press apples into apple cider the old fashioned way, she explains how the Henry Got Crops CSA works.
“Its managed by Weavers Way staff and then students come out during their classes to work with us and learn about the importance of local food and how to grow things organically.”
“I don’t want you guys to overfill that,” she says while gently shooing a bee away from the cups of fresh cider, “push some of the apples in the bucket.”
Berryman works the fields while Clare Hyre works the classroom as the educational coordinator from Weavers Way. She says most of the students “have a perspective of why the work is important and we’re trying to give them some context.”
She says having a CSA in the neighborhood is invaluable because it illustrates where food comes from before it arrives on our plates.
One student calculated the distance her breakfast traveled, which is one way of understanding our food. The other way, says Hyre, is through experiential learning, “just letting the kids get their hands dirty.”
As the event wound down, the winners of the pie bake-off competition were announced. The fruit pie category ended in a tie between an apple pie made by 13-year-old Bella Hondros, and an apple/pear/fig/cranberry creation by CJ Jearny.
But the real winners were the spectators who nibbled on samples from all 15 competing pies.
For the “other” category Georgia Kirkpatrick won with her family’s recipe for Italian cheese pie. “I grew up eating it,” she says. “It’s funny I didn’t like it when I was a kid. It’s kind of an adult thing.”
Students from Saul were there to help out, in return for extra credit in their natural resources class.
After packing up the apple press, Nina Berryman walked the field with her student Qadeer Lee, 15, inspecting the eggplants to see if they would be ready for harvest soon.
“We do everything,” Qadeer says proudly about his classwork. “We mow the grass, plant the seeds, build things, feed the animals… we do everything.”