Urban Agriculture Leads the Way in Philadelphia
Weavers Way Co-op in Philadelphia, Pa. is on a mission to link more people with local food. One way they are doing this is through their three co-op-owned farms, located right in the city. Weavers Way Co-op and Weavers Way Community Programs, a nonprofit arm of the food co-op, currently manage the three farms. Weavers Way’s farms are a powerful example of how urban agriculture can transform the environment and the food on our plates.
It all started when a group of Weaver Way members wanted to show kids where food comes from, in a way that was personal and easy to explain. The members acquired a garden plot at the Awbury Arboretum and volunteered their time to plant seeds, harvest the produce and show kids around. “The purpose was to educate neighborhood youth, and people got really excited about it,” said Nina Berryman, farm director for Weavers Way Farms. Several years later, the farm added a focus on production, expanding to a full acre and adding paid farmers. The farm continued to grow and the 2-acre Mort Brooks Memorial Farm now supplies fresh produce to the food co-op and local farmers markets. “Everyone has a special affinity for the food that comes directly from our farms,” Berryman said.
The co-op added two other farms to their operations: Henry Got Crops! Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), a farm run in partnership with W.B. Saul High School; and the Hope Garden at the Stenton Family Manor. Henry Got Crops CSA has 2.5 acres, and students at the high school are involved in every aspect of farm operations. They do everything from growing the food to harvesting it for CSA members, learning real-life business skills along the way. “They also eat the food they grow,” Berryman noted, as the farm has inspired students to develop healthier eating habits.
Hope Garden is a quarter-acre plot located at a homeless shelter. Managed by Weavers Way Community Programs, the co-op’s nonprofit, it is truly a labor of love for the community involved. “The garden has created a safe space at the shelter, and residents can eat the food, and the children play in the garden,” Berryman said. “It is a full experience.”
Berryman said the main reason the co-op operates these farms is because “our co-op members want us to do more than simply be a destination for great food.” She said they want their co-op to support urban and regional agricultural systems, and give people tools for understanding why it matters. “That’s the heart of it,” she said.
To find out more about Weavers Way Co-op and its farms, go to www.weaversway.coop