Warm spring weather is waking up the farmer in me. I suddenly have the urge to sink my hands into the soil and grow greens, tomatoes, potatoes – you name it. A new resident of Philadelphia, I was not sure how to go about finding a way to satisfy my urge to farm. I turned to the web to start the search online and learned that the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Philadelphia Green program has “used horticulture to build community and improve the quality of life in Philadelphia’s neighborhoods and downtown public spaces” for over 30 years. This was a good start, but how was I going to find a place to grow those tomatoes? I deepened my search by asking friends about urban farming in Philly and soon learned through Maria Dziembowska from The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia that there are over 400 community gardens in the city. An aspiring urban gardener herself, Maria recently organized a bike ride with Nic Esposito of the City Harvest Growers Alliance Program (CHGA) to help city residents explore 4 of these urban gardens and learn about this piece of the city’s food system. The City Harvest project is a collaborative partnership that enables gardeners to share their bounty and grow healthy communities. With these pieces of the puzzle in hand, I am confident that I will be happily planting and weeding away soon.
If you do not live in Philly, do not despair, you can join a “crop mob” and become involved with a farming community near you. What, you may ask, is a crop mob? According to cropmob.org, “a crop mob is primarily a group of young, landless and wannabe farmers who come together to build and empower communities by working side by side. Crop mob is also a group of experienced farmers and gardeners willing to share their knowledge with their peers and the next generation of agrarians.” Projects range from picking rocks from a field or turning vegetable beds in the springtime, to harvesting and sorting produce in the fall. Back in April of this year, Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming and the Full Plate Farm Collective in Ithaca, NY organized 35 volunteers to help farmers Melissa Madden and Garrett Miller plant 125 apple trees at their farm The Good Life Farm in Interlaken, NY. You can join a crop mob in your area by searching here.
Crop mobs and organizations like Groundswell and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society are actively working towards the goals of building community and inviting individuals to participate in and understand the work behind the colorful bounty that farmers seem to magically produce each year. There is a place for you in this community!
I’ll meet you on the farm.
– Bridget Meigs