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Entries in community (97)


Force of Nature

Since Natural Lands Trust established Green Hills Preserve in 2012, Jim Moffett has installed 14 bluebird boxes. | Photo by Megan Matuzak

Jim Moffett, a Natural Lands Trust volunteer, works to improve Pennsylvania’s nature and wildlife preserves

With a pair of clippers in one hand and a camera resting on his hip, Jim Moffett surveys the land that makes up the Green Hills Preserve, a 168-acre Natural Lands Trust preserve in Mohnton, Pa. As he walks through the field and into the woods along a trail he helped create, he identifies plants and frequently pauses to snap a picture of a bird resting on a tree limb or telephone wire. Natural Lands Trust works to preserve land from development, and since it began land restoration work at Green Hills Preserve in 2012, Moffett has installed 14 bluebird boxes, and maintains about 70 species of native grasses and wildflowers.

Moffett became interested in land preservation after he graduated in 2012 from Force of Nature, a six-month program that trains individuals in identifying invasive and native plants, wildlife, and trial maintenance. This spurred him to begin volunteering at several preserves, including Green Hills and Crows Nest Preserve in Elverson, Pa. “I wanted to see wildlife coexist and have its place in our society,” Moffett says.

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From Around Here: Whole Foods Market program bolsters local producer Organic Mechanics Soil Company

In 2007, a flyer for a new Whole Foods Market program caught the eye of Mark Highland, founder and president of Organic Mechanics Potting Soil. It asked for local producers who had products that were grown, raised, harvested or crafted within 100 miles from a Whole Foods Market store (measured as the crow flies). Highland had such a product. His 100 percent organic potting soil and planting mix was made outside of Philadelphia in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and used locally sourced ingredients, so he applied. “I got lucky,” he says. 

Whole Foods Market brought him onboard and used his company as an advertisement for the program when it began it in 2007. Previously called Local, the program name was changed in the summer of 2013 to From Around Here to be more specific and get away from the fuzzy definition of local. 

Through the program, Whole Foods Market wanted a way to share the stories of the companies it was endorsing with its customers—to help bridge the gap between producer and consumer and to promote the shared dedication to environmental sustainability. “When you tell the whole story, then that transparency tends to build a connection,” Highland says. “It compels [customers] to pick up a bag and try it right then and there.” And before long, “we have a customer for life.”

Whole Foods Market eventually started selling Organic Mechanics products in multiple markets, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, the Mid-Atlantic region, the Northeastern region and most recently the Midwest, although the company still gets most of its business from local stores. From Around Here products in Whole Foods Market stores that are beyond the 100 miles away are highlighted using a “From Pennsylvania” signs and call-outs. 

According to Highland, the support he has received as a result of From Around Here has bolstered Organic Mechanics and helped increase sales. “When people learn that Whole Foods is one of our major customers … it’s an impressive thing,” Highland says, adding that the name recognition has prompted other companies to sell his products. 

Highland is looking forward to attending Philly Farm & Food Fest. The event is a good way for him to come face to face with customers and to share his story about wanting to create a nutrient-dense organic soil that touted earth-friendly benefits. Highland says that using Organic Mechanics soil cultivates healthier produce, makes the planet more sustainable, groundwater safer to drink, promotes cleaner air and helps keep your family healthier. “Even if you’re a family of one,” he says. 

Organic Mechanics Container Blend Potting Soil is ideal for container gardens, transplanting, tropical and indoor plants, and because it’s peat-free, you'll water half as often. To purchase, head to your nearest Whole Foods Market or visit


Avant Gardener: Horticulture educator has been a longtime champion for urban gardeners

Doris Stahl, here at the Horticulture Center at the Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, built hundreds of urban gardens around the city. Photo by Dan Murphy.After Doris Stahl’s two sons had moved out of the house in 1985, she was looking for a change. As a professionally trained fine artist and educator, she taught art sporadically at community centers and summer park programs while raising her two sons. But now that they were grown, Stahl wanted something more full-time. An avid home gardener, Stahl was drawn to accept a position as a horticulture educator with Penn State Extension. Little did she know the change she’d instill by bringing the Master Gardener Program to Philadelphia and building hundreds of urban gardens during her 26-year tenure.

The Master Gardener Program, which was established in Seattle in 1972 to meet the demands for urban horticulture and education, provides extensive training to volunteers who then go on to serve their communities through beautification projects, educational workshops, community garden maintenance, and providing gardening advice and education. Penn State adopted the Master Gardener Program in 1982, and implemented it in Pennsylvania counties where farming was already prevalent. But when Stahl came on board three years later, the Master Gardeners were nonexistent in Philadelphia, a city blighted by 33,000 vacant lots and minimal green space. 

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Solar in the City: Customer-backed, campus-based energy system a first in Philadelphia

Temple University's solar panels can be seen by approximately 26,000 regional rail riders.Although the newly installed solar panels are mounted three stories up on Temple University’s Edberg-Olson Hall, about 26,000 regional rail riders see them daily as they pass through the Temple University Station. The visibility is what the university is hoping will draw attention to the project, so more people see solar energy as viable. 

Although the newly installed solar panels are mounted three stories up on Temple University’s Edberg-Olson Hall, about 26,000 regional rail riders see them daily as they pass through the Temple University Station. The visibility is what the university is hoping will draw attention to the project, so more people see solar energy as viable. 

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King of K&A: Plain Sights at Wishart St. & Kensington Ave.

The Flomar Building, now home to Esperanza Health Center and the Hispanic Community and Counseling Services, in K&A (Kensington and Allegheny), serves as an example of a would-be eyesore that went from neighborhood burden to neighborhood benefit.

The building was built in 1928 for the Northeastern Title and Trust Company. While other banks in the area were building low-slung Neoclassical stone castles, Northeastern opted for a brick high-rise. While it was an ostentatious megalith that represented the company’s success, the Wall Street Crash of 1929 led to Northeastern merging with the Industrial Trust Company of Philadelphia, and taking on its name in 1930.

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