by Arden Bucklin-Sporer and Rachel Kathleen Pringle
(Timber Press, 224 pp., $24.95, June 2010)
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) is no stranger to innovation. Consider it’s new EcoCHOP initiative, which aims to implement responsible practices—from recycling, building and purchasing, to more healthcare-specific areas—that ultimately care for the health of the environment.
"Kids will knock on our door and ask for collards for their grandmum,” says Emily Wren, one of six members of Mitten, a cooperative house of twentysomething coeds that runs an urban farming venture in Southwest Philadelphia known as Pocket Farm. What began three years ago as a household garden to grow food for Mitten and a neighboring house has quite literally blossomed into a community effort. When neighbors began noticing the vibrant colors and scents of fresh veggies, requests for produce and farming education began pouring in.
The garden needed to grow, and fast.
Philadelphia, as the old trope goes, is a city of neighborhoods. While each has its own concerns and culture, sustainability is a key for all in establishing and maintaining a neighborhood that nurtures and uplifts those who live there. In our Sustainable Communities in Action series, GRID will highlight organizations that are working to make their neighborhoods greener, safer places that residents can feel proud of.
Residents of the east kensington, Fishtown and Port Richmond areas of the city are served by Sustainable 19125, an innovative community partnership created by the New Kensington Community Development Corp. (NKCDC) to address sustainability issues and quality-of-life concerns. The initiative’s goal is equal parts community revitalization, greening and neighbor-to-neighbor camaraderie.
Can farming serve as therapy for those afflicted with cognitive disabilities? The answer’s not as far out there as you might think. In fact, it’s just an hour from the bustling streets of Philadelphia on the serene farmland of Chester County’s Camphill Village Kimberton Hills. The planned community is home to over 100 individuals, 40 of whom are diagnosed with a variety of cognitive disabilities—including autism, Down Syndrome and brain trauma. Rather than isolating those with special needs, the community’s success depends upon the interactions of all community members through biodynamic agriculture. In work teams, the residents of Kimberton Hills educate one another in daily give-and-take through which the term “disabled” becomes a misnomer.
Better known for their whimsical mustache-on-a-stick hand-held disguises, design duo Something’s Hiding in Here are currently spending their time creating funky bow ties using found vintage fabrics in a rainbow of colors and patterns.
Whether your inspiration is Gatsby’s Daisy and her flapper frocks, the tightly cinched cotillion dresses of the ’50s or a flowing flower-child number, brides seeking upcycled, era-appropriate wedding attire will find dress destiny among Mill Crest Vintage’s collection of 19th- and 20th-century gowns and party dresses.
For a self-described “ecology geek” like Mike Weilbacher, the chance to direct the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education—Northwest Philly’s 340-acre green treasure—is a dream realized. Formerly executive director of Lower Merion Conservancy and, for the last year, Abington’s Briar Bush Nature Center, the Long Island native is one month into his new post, and busy creating new programming that will attract both children and adults to what he refers to as the “Mother Ship” of local nature centers.
Last summer marked the first ever Ride of Dreams, a 240-mile bike ride from West Philadelphia to the state capital in Harrisburg and back to raise funds for Neighborhood Bike Works (NBW), the Philly-based nonprofit that teaches urban youth the benefits and joy of cycling. This year, NBW will ride from Pennsylvania to Pennsylvania Avenue; the second annual ride will commence on July 22, kicking off at NBW’s headquarters and rolling down to Washington, D.C., where riders will celebrate their successful journey on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building on July 24.
When you walk the walk like John Francis, you don’t necessarily need to talk the talk. Planetwalker: 17 Years of Silence, 22 Years of Walking is the true story of a native Philadelphian who, after witnessing a devastating 1971 California oil spill, chose to abstain from all motorized transportation. Instead, Francis walked. When his walking led to arguments with those who did not understand his beliefs, he gave up using his voice, as well
At the intersection of 11th and York streets sits a new farm run by North Philadelphia high school students and Temple University undergrads. The group has dubbed itself the Philadelphia Urban Creators (PUC), and is utilizing urban agriculture as a gateway to youth empowerment and community revitalization.
The farming collaboration between Marathon Grill and Emerald Street Urban Farm’s Patrick Dunn [Dec. 2010 Grid, Agriculture p.18] has come to fruition in Brewerytown. In March, Marathon Farm hosted five workdays that attracted more than 60 volunteers, who transformed a vacant lot into a promising agricultural haven. On March 21, Mayor Michael Nutter himself hosted a press conference and helped to plant some of the first seeds at the farm’s grand opening.
Tucked between routes 1 and 13, Morrisville’s 25-acre Snipes Farm & Education Center is rich in history. The land has been in the Snipes family since 1848, when it got its horticultural start as a nursery; trees grown here were uprooted and taken by horse-drawn cart to Chestnut Hill, the Main Line and Fairmount Park. There was also the 5,000-square-foot Snipes Garden Center, which supplied area residents with growing essentials for 50 years before big-box stores forced Susan Snipes-Wells and her brother Jonathan Snipes to close the center in 2004. From there the siblings, who took over ownership duties from their father, decided to transform the farm from a horticulture center and small “U-Pick” orchard to a more agriculturally focused education center and CSA, allowing them to teach local residents the importance of sustainable growing methods.