Emerald Street Urban Farm was once a vacant lot, home to piles of trash and an abandoned VW van. Now, thanks to Patrick Dunn and Elissa Ruse, five raised beds cradle a bounty of winter produce and 10 community garden plots offer an outlet for landless Kensington residents. The farm will serve as a model for Dunn as he helps Marathon Grill turn underutilized spaces into blossoming farms.
“[Marathon] came to one of our fundraisers in the spring, saw what we were doing and got really excited about it,” explains Dunn. “They contacted me a few months later saying that they owned all this vacant land and wanted to do something positive for the city.”
The local restaurant chain currently owns 12 small lots throughout Philadelphia, but Dunn—along with Marathon owner Cary Borish—is searching for something larger. They plan to purchase the land through the restaurant’s Marathon Loves Philadelphia Foundation and begin farming this spring.
“I thought identifying the lot would be easier,” says Borish. “It needs to be the right size, it needs to get the right sunlight and it needs to be in the right area.” Locations have been considered in Brewerytown, Kensington and Strawberry Mansion. The ideal neighborhood will have a pressing need for healthy food, and a planned pay-what-you-can farmstand will offer residents half the harvest. The other half will end up on the plates of Marathon diners.
“We love the idea of using local, sustainable, urban farming for our produce, but that’s not the driving force behind this project,” says Borish. “We’re doing it because a huge component of urban farming is bringing people together through food.”