Cover Story: Growth Industry

Nic Esposito and a new generation of urban activists are starting in the garden

Answering a question about his favorite things to grow is a challenge for Nic Esposito. After a few nods to his Italian heritage—eggplants, tomatoes—he settles on a response that speaks volumes about the work he is doing in his West Philadelphia community: “I love planting perennials,” he says with a smile. “It might make me sound lazy, but I love the idea of putting something in the ground—like rosemary or berry bushes—and seeing them grow back. It gives you a stake in where you are.”

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News: TIGER Beat

A U.S. Department of Transportation grant should mean big things for the city’s walkers and bikers

The final weeks before spring—when the itch for the outdoors becomes borderline unbearable—is the perfect timing for this announcement: TIGER, The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery Discretionary Grant Program, has awarded our region $23 million in recovery money to be used towards the development of biking and walking trails.

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Local Business: Bite Marks

by Lee Stabert | photo by Lucas HardisonKatie Cavuto-Boyle’s Healthy Bites fills a void in Graduate Hospital

They say one of the keys to a successful business is seeing a need, and then filling it. That is Katie Cavuto Boyle’s plan. Her newly opened Healthy Bites To-Go Market/Café looks to bring wholesome, locally-sourced grab-and-go products to the Graduate Hospital neighborhood.

The area has some excellent spots for a casual dinner or snack, but they’re mostly bars specializing in ramped-up pub food. There is nowhere for eaters in this rapidly developing neighborhood to pick up a pint of local milk, a quick sandwich or lasagna to heat up at home.

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Local Business: Soap Dish

Spotted Hill Farm proves that size doesn’t matter 

Donna Bowman’s farm isn’t very big, but neither are its primary inhabitants: a herd of miniature Nubian goats.

They’re inquisitive, friendly little creatures, with long, floppy ears and prominent noses. Bowman breeds them, and uses their milk for the homemade soaps and lotions she sells through the farm’s website and at local farmers’ markets.

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Gardening Issue: Seed Money

When it comes to seeds, Kim Massare does the work for you 

A few years ago, frustrated by the lack of heirloom varieties available at local garden centers, South Philly gardener Kim Massare went on a seed catalogue shopping spree. She lit up her rowhouse’s basement with grow lights and brought down all those non-recyclable plastic containers she’d been collecting—Startin’ Yer Garten was born.

As any gardener can tell you, it’s easy to plant too many seeds—especially when your garden is, at best, a postage stamp with limited sun. Over-planting has an upsetting side effect: having to discard those carefully nurtured seedlings. Looking to offset the cost of her investment and rescue her extra plants from the trash bin, Massare posted an ad for them on Craigslist. The response was immediate and enthusiastic. 

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Gardening Issue: Snakes in the Garden

Gardeners, meet your new best friend: the brown snake

Don’t freak out—it’s just a snake. It’s a really tiny snake, totally harmless. The worst it can do is poop on you.

Sure, you weren’t expecting to find a real live snake in West Philly (or North Philly, or Northwest Philly), roaming the soul patch of green that passes for your backyard.

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Food: Rhub Awakening

Come spring, we local eaters are deeply hungry for regionally-grown produce beyond cold-loving Brussels sprouts and storage apples, potatoes and onions. Sadly, with a stinging chill remaining in the air, summer berries, stone fruit and corn (oh corn!) are still a long way away. Happily, there’s one plant that starts appearing earlier than all the rest, and with its brilliant color and tart flavor, it will give your taste buds the zing they’ve been longing for.

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Dispatch: Growing Pains

My neighbor is standing at my back fence, looking at my ripening tomatoes. “I wanted to ask you something,” he says. “Every year, you work so hard to grow them. So why don’t you ever pick them?”

Hmmm… I was hoping nobody had noticed. 

I could tell him I’d been too busy. I could tell him it’s my way of tithing. I could tell him I believe in leaving something for the squirrels and birds. 

But the truth is, I just don’t like to harvest.

 

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Media: A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams

Did you think we could get through an entire issue of Grid without mentioning Michael Pollan in our media section? Maybe next month.  Best-known for his work on food politics, Michael Pollan’s second book, A Place of My Own (1998, reissued in 2008), focuses on architecture and building, documenting his efforts to construct the titular place of his own.

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Food: Seasonal Produce

LEEKS

Having grown up in a leek-less household, I find them endlessly intriguing—in no small part due to their resemblance to obese scallions. But leeks are so much more than portly onions; they have an amazing rich, mellow flavor and a dynamic range of textures, depending on how they’re cooked.

A member of the Alliaceae family, which also includes onions, garlic, ramps and elephant garlic, among others, leeks have a long and storied tradition in Europe. They are one of the national emblems of Wales, and in France they are ubiquitous.

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Food: Green Cuisine

Greenwood Kitchen makes tasty snacks that everyone can enjoy  

For eight years, Jaynel Hollis struggled with abdominal pains, nausea, headaches and fatigue. There was no explanation, until she discovered she was gluten-intolerant. She set out on a mission to provide others who suffer from food allergies with gluten-free and vegan food made with local, organic ingredients, establishing Greenwood Kitchen and Bakeshop. 

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Food: Gussied-Up Tabbouleh

[ serves 8 ]

When I first became a vegetarian, tabbouleh was one of the few dishes in my culinary repertoire. I recently updated this Middle Eastern staple—beloved for its pairing of fresh vibrant herbs with sweet, chewy bulgur. I’ve added a bit of lemon zest to brighten the flavor, and instead of soaking the bulgur in water, I soak it in veggie broth for an added layer of flavor.

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Gardening Issue: Popular Mechanics

by Alli Katz

A local company forsakes peat

All gardeners use potting soil,” says mark Highland, president of Organic Mechanics. “Why not use a local product?” Founded in 2006, the company, located just outside of Coatesville, makes a variety of soils for every level of planter—from large organic farms to botanical gardens to recreational gardeners. 

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Local Business: Bloom Times

Love ’n Fresh Flowers is the place for locally-grown blossoms

Jennie Love, owner of the Mt. Airy floral boutique Love ’n Fresh Flowers, describes her business as “far from traditional.” Operated out of Love’s home studio and garden, Love ’n Fresh sells only flowers grown within a 50-mile radius of Philadelphia. In fact, Love grows most of them herself. 

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News Alert: The Energy Caps Come Off

Prepare yourselves: In January 2011, electricity rates in Philadelphia will increase, if not skyrocket. Back in 1997, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a deregulation measure that capped utility rates for consumers in preparation for allowing competition—or “Energy Choice”—in the market. PECO’s cap will expire next year, but citizens in other areas of the state are already feeling the heat from rising bills. The caps for PPL Electric Utilities, which services 25 percent of Pennsylvanians, expired January 1 of this year. The company estimates customers’ monthly bills will increase by 29.7 percent (18.4 percent for small businesses and 36.1 percent for mid-size businesses). These rate hikes make it more important than ever to retrofit and weatherize homes and businesses.

For information on this complicated set of changes, visit  puc.state.pa.us/utilitychoice.

News: Isle of White

RetroFit Philly gives Philadelphians a chance to win free energy upgrades 

It seems impossible that, in a few short months, Philadelphians will be sweating through their shirts, but it’s true. Energy costs are sure to be a concern this summer, and small changes make a huge difference.

This is the thrust behind RetroFit Philly’s Coolest Block Contest, an initiative sponsored by the City of Philadelphia, the Energy Coordinating Agency (ECA) of Philadelphia and the Dow Building & Construction business group. The winners will receive energy audits and white roofs for their entire block, free of charge.

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