South Philly Food Co-Op Passes 300 Member Mark at Second Annual Garden Tour

The South Philly Food Co-Op’s (SPFC) second annual garden tour featured 24 home and community gardens spanning from Ellsworth to Wolf streets and Second to 22nd streets in South Philadelphia Saturday.

SPFC sold 140 tickets for the event, which the group held in hopes of engaging the community and adding members to its ever-growing membership pool.

Started in the spring of 2010, SPFC is working towards opening a member-owned co-op grocery story, and to do so membership is critical. The co-op must meet certain membership benchmarks to advance from one phase to the next.

At 250 members, the co-op was able to create a real estate committee. At 400 members the organization will begin to secure funding, and at 600 members the co-op will be able to sign a lease.

At Saturday’s event, the group signed up enough new members to surpass the 300-member mark.

Garden tour participants like Jonathan Feinman, who opened his home garden on 13th street, said he is happy to support SPFC.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Feinman said. “It’s more earth friendly, which is kind of what I’m all about.”

A major goal of SPFC is to engage the community in its work.

“The whole focus is to keep [our work] in the community,” said Leigh Goldenberg, chair of the events committee. “We’re employed by the community. We’re owned by the community.”

Neighbors Suzanne Linus, Dave Mariscotti and Steve Fabiani, who opened their home gardens to the tour as well, said they are happy to support both SPFC and the South Philly community.

“I think it’s great that people are engaging in the community,” Linus said. “I’ve lived in this neighborhood for five years now. If there is one thing about this neighborhood that constantly happens, it’s that we are constantly involved.”

Across Broad Street, Programs Employing People opened its community garden to the tour, and leaders said the event helped PEP both inform neighbors of the non-profit’s work and support the South Philly community.

“People can live two blocks away, and they’ll walk by and have no idea we’re here,” board member Susan Lanciano said. Inviting people into the community garden, she said, helps PEP spread word of the organization’s work.

Lanciano and Executive Director Graham Gill said PEP also participated in the garden tour to foster South Philly’s continued development.

“The neighborhood has been on the rebound for a good 10 years now, and we wanted to make a contribution to that,” Gill said.

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