South Philly High rooftop garden reaches crowd-funding goal

 In April, South Philadelphia HS Principal Otis Hackney, Kim Massare of the Lower Moyamensing Civic Assn. and Lauren Mandel from Roofmeadow landscape architecture firm stood on what could become a rooftop farm. (Emma Jacobs/WHYY)

In April, South Philadelphia HS Principal Otis Hackney, Kim Massare of the Lower Moyamensing Civic Assn. and Lauren Mandel from Roofmeadow landscape architecture firm stood on what could become a rooftop farm. (Emma Jacobs/WHYY)

After exceeding its crowd-funding goal of $26,300, South Philadelphia High School is one step closer to a rooftop farm.

Principal Otis Hackney’s ambitious plan to create one of the largest rooftop farms in the area is part a campus greening master plan, to be developed in partnership with the Lower Moyamensing Civic Association.

The 60-day crowd-funding campaign was launched on April 9 using the website Projexity, a Kickstarter-like model for projects that aim to improve urban environments.

Anonymous donor saves the day

Lauren Mandel, rooftop agriculture specialist with the Roofmeadow landscape architecture firm, says the project met its goal one day before deadline.

An anonymous donor came forward, offering to chip in the remainder of the project if they could raise $17,000 on their own.

“Any kind of vegetables you can grow in your garden, we can grow up here,” Mandel said. “With the exception of maybe watermelons and corn — but lettuces, tomatoes, zucchini, all the good stuff. Then that food will be integrated into the culinary arts program of the school.”

What it’ll look like

Mandel added that the huge space on top of the building also has room for outdoor classrooms and solar panels too.

Hackney hopes students also take math and science lessons from the gardens, maybe inspiring them to get on a green technology career track.

“It could be one of those life-changing, career-altering trajectories for a young person,” he said, “and I want to make sure they have the opportunity to be exposed to it.”

Mandel say the money raised will pay for the first of a five-phase project.

Phase one, set to launch in the fall to coincide with the start of the school year, will pay one year’s salary for a full-time garden educator.

The school currently has a part-time garden educator, whose salary is funded by the Lower Moyamensing Civic Association.

Students, teachers and community members will develop a plan through meetings and surveys and estimate the cost of greening master plan. The plan will then be used to apply for grants to finance the next phases of the project, which involve the construction and design of the ground and roof-level improvements.

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