Monday, September 28, 2009

A Farm in the 'Hood

It is a most unlikely place to build a farm, in the middle of a struggling Philadelphia neighborhood at a location that once housed a steel plant. But since 1998, Greensgrow Farms has not only survived the lean early years but has thrived as a community center and a pioneer in the urban farm movement in Philadelphia.

Mary Seton Corboy and Tom Sereduk started Greensgrow as a hydroponic farm operation in the Kensington neighborhood selling lettuce and then tomatoes to local restaurants. Hydroponic farming essentially means growing plants in a nutrient solution without soil. Today, the operation grows a variety of vegetables on raised beds of organic soil. In addition to the farm operation, Greensgrow now has nursery, a farm stand that includes produce and fruit from local, family-run farms, and a Community Supported Agriculture center, or CSA, which generally supplies households with locally grown food through the growing season for an upfront cost. The farm even makes its own honey. Sereduk left the business a few years ago but is still active on the farm, my wife and I chatted with him during a visit a couple weeks ago.

On our most recent visit a few days ago, the food stand was a colorful display combining the end of the summer’s harvest with new fall items. Radishes, beets and multi-colored carrots shared a section of the stand with Bok Choy, Swiss chard, and broccoli rabe. Purple cabbage shared another section with red and green long peppers. Meanwhile, heirloom tomatoes were set beside a display of squashes and Indian corn. The cashier’s hut was already set for fall with a pumpkin and hay display, and even though it is late in the season, the nursery seemed to be in full bloom.

We bought spinach and arugula grown on the farm, locally grown Bok Choy, and fresh strawberries (yes strawberries in September) from Linvilla Orchards in Media, Pa., grown from a strain that seems to remain active in the fall months. We also purchased some of those colorful carrots. In addition, picked up some of the best tasting bacon we ever had from Country Time Farm, a small, family-run hog farm in Berks County, Pa., and a young chicken (less than three pounds) from Griggstown Quail Farm, in Princeton, N.J.On Saturday, Oct. 3, the farm will host its first Fall Festival.

Unfortunately, the fall season means that Greensgrow will soon be packing up for the winter. Thanksgiving Eve is its last day of operation for the season.

Greensgrow Farms,
2501 E. Cumberland St., Philadelphia, PA 19125

Pictures of the nursery are below:

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