Farming It Out: Bartram’s Garden restores tradition with a new farm and community center

story by katie winklerTwo years ago during a staff retreat, Tyler Holmberg and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania’s Netter Center for Community Partnership started brainstorming about transforming the southern portion of Bartram’s Garden into an operational farm. Since then, their vision has become a reality; last month, ground was officially broken for the Bartram’s Farm and Community Resource Center. 

“It will be a hub that will increase access to naturally-grown local produce through the farm and by educating Philadelphians who want to grow their own food,” says Eileen Gallagher, project manager of the Philadelphia Horticulture Society’s (PHS) City Harvest Program.

The project is a joint effort of Bartram’s, the Netter Center’s Urban Nutrition Initiative (UNI), PHS and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation.

With partial funding from a USDA Community Food Security grant, irrigation systems and electrical lines have been laid to support a greenhouse, an acre of cropland, 40 to 60 community garden beds, and a community kitchen for education and outreach. Bartram’s will also be working with the Philadelphia Orchard Project to plant 30 to 40 fruit and nut trees, including heirloom varieties of apples and pears. Longterm plans for the orchard involve planting 120 total trees, including plums, peaches and figs, and native species like pawpaws, northern pecans and persimmons. When complete, it will be Philadelphia’s largest orchard.

This fall, 12 high school students from UNI will spade the field, then plant cover crop, followed by garlic, perennials and tulips. The students will learn how to cook and prepare organic foods, sell them in markets, and even teach community cooking lessons.

The project will be implemented over several years, but construction of the greenhouse is already underway. The farm will be “much like what John Bartram would’ve had here 250 years ago,” says Kim Massare, public programs manager at Bartram’s. “We’re excited about restoring the history of Bartram’s and opening our arms to the community.”

Bartram's Garden is at 54th St. and Lindbergh Blvd. Visiting hours can be found at, bartramsgarden.org. To learn more about AUNI, visit urbannutrition.org