***The Walnut Hill Mini Farm and Grower's Cooperative, before (above) and after (below) our spring cleaning in 2009.***
I have some big news on the West Philly community garden front. My neighbor/partner-in-crime Nic and I applied for and got a really exciting grant from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society!! We will be part of the inaugural class of the City Harvest Community Growers Alliance, a program which will supply us with soil, lumber, plants, stakes, tools, harvest boxes and more so we can grow and sell our own produce, thus increasing the amount of locally grown fresh produce in Philadelphia and contributing to the local economy. PHS is funding this program through a grant from the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The grant is for 3 years and PHS plans to absorb the program into their internal funding once the three years are up. Click here to see an article about the grant in Grid Magazine (on page 5).
There are 15 groups of people who are part of the first class of Community Growers and we all have different backgrounds, growing conditions and ideas for how to implement our urban "ag-ventures." Nic and I will be using our resources to start the
Walnut Hill Grower's Cooperative.
Officially: "The main objective of the Walnut Hill Grower’s Cooperative is to communally grow fresh, organic produce to be put up for sale at local markets, thus increasing access to fresh, locally grown food and providing supplemental income to local urban farmers. We aim to create urban agriculture jobs that are not grant-funded, but are supported by resources from the City Harvest Community Grower’s Alliance Grant (CHCGA) and the entrepreneurial action of community growers. The target community for this project is residents of West Philadelphia who would benefit from supplemental income, such as senior citizens and people of college-age."
So the gist is that it will be local people, farming communally, earning money, and selling to their neighbors and local businesses. Simple!
We're still partnering with The Enterprise Center to incorporate that piece of land into the Center for Culinary Enterprise (CCE); a kitchen incubator where community members will go through a program to learn how to process their own food and market and sell it in the community. However, the CCE won't be up and running for another year or so. In the mean time, Nic and I will be using the land to start our Grower's Cooperative, which will eventually be incorporated into the CCE.
Things are clearly happening in the Philly urban ag scene and I am so excited to be a part of it! For the next three years we will have the resources to see what we can do to locally farm and sell produce and provide jobs for people in our community. Eventually we will incorporate education into our mission and hold workshops, lectures and activities to teach people how to "grow their own". Wish us luck!