Today was just gorgeous: beautiful, warm, and sunny. And the previous week's rainstorms, I must say, seem to have kicked the growing season into high gear. What a day to have my hands in the earth.
I made my way over to Mill Creek Farm in western Philadelphia this morning with my water bottle, a sandwich, and some sunscreen to help out at one of the community workdays. On my walk over, I even managed to cajole a few of the neighborhood boys into helping out for a few hours. (They were the hardest workers there! Not that the rest of us were slackers or anything.) While Jade managed a group of folks doing their regular shift on behalf of the Mariposa Food Co-op (I learned that members have the option of working in the garden instead of staffing the co-op -- very cool), Jo gave me and a group of volunteers from a local Jewish community center a tour of the farm.
To say I was impressed would be an understatement. Mill Creek is truly a model of sustainable living, from it's cob constructed shed to the living roof to the composting toilet to the solar panels. It's also a model of community collaboration, with a recycled materials mural created with students from a nearby arts high school and plans to begin construction of a grey water system with another local school under development (using bathtubs that had been donated to the farm). The farm itself is split into 2 main sections: one for community members to grow food for themselves and one for the farm volunteers to grow food to sell (to the local community, to the local food co-op) or donate to food cupboards. The whole point is to cultivate a sense of community and provide a space to produce and provide healthy, sustainably grown fresh produce to a neighborhood that would not likely otherwise have access to it. If this place doesn't embody what a community garden is supposed to be, I don't know what the heck else the ideal place would look like.
The farm is in the process of advocating for the land to be permanently designated as a critical green space in west Philadelphia. The idea is to get the land that the Mill Creek Farm maintains along with the adjacent community garden (which has been around for more than 30 years) put in a land trust with the Neighborhood Gardens Association (NGA) to get the title transferred from the City of Philadelphia, which currently owns the property, to the NGA.
This place rocks. If you want to help support the work here, swing by for a community workday, sign the petition to rally support from the local councilwoman, stop by one of the produce stands they have set up outside the farm on Wednesdays and Saturdays and purchase some of the delectable vittles. If you can't come in person, you can still donate online (not that I am in any way trying to divert funding from my own project, but this is one truly worthy cause.)
I'm hoping to learn much more about the burgeoning urban gardening scene in Philadelphia this week. Stay tuned!