The Buying Game

‘Shop Local’ isn’t just a slogan. Our survival depends on it.

Illustration by Jameela Wahlgren

Illustration by Jameela Wahlgren

Question: Why should I “Buy Fresh, Buy Local”?

The Right Question: What is a local economy, anyway?

Most of us tend to think of “the economy” as the process of exchanging our money for goods and services, and of receiving wages for our labor, which gets plowed back into buying more goods and services. 

We might imagine this as two circles running in opposite directions—money circles one way, goods and services the other way—and often we think of them as having equal value. But in our modern industrial human economy, only money, the medium of exchange, actually cycles. 

The goods that come into our economy are on a one-way, generally very rapid, trip from extraction from nature, processing into something we want (perhaps even something we need) to disposal in a landfill or incinerator. Our large economy is geared toward making that trip faster and faster, and toward consuming more and more. Whether that makes us healthier or happier is an idea we’ve explored in other columns.

Note “extraction from nature” above. The human economy is only a small part of the global natural economy, which provides us most of our critical needs—air, water and a livable climate outside of the human, money-based economy. The natural economy works very differently. All material resources are continuously recycled, and energy is on a one-way trip—it arrives in very concentrated form from the sun to our planet, where it drives both organic and atmospheric processes, and is eventually dissipated back into space, so diluted as to be incapable of further work. 

When we think of “local economy” we generally mean exchanges that begin and end with the material resources and money never leaving a geographical region. One hundred and fifty years ago, our local economy was the dominant economic unit. Most of Philadelphia’s food and other material resources came from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. However, the explosion ofpetroleum-powered transportation has, for the moment, integrated economies over vast regions. Nevertheless, taking steps to rebuild and strengthen our presently minuscule local economies is the best investment we can make in a secure future, when the energy that powers the global economy wanes.

How do we do that?

The most fundamental way is by supporting our local food economy. That’s why I buy 90 percent of my vegetables, fruit, dairy and meat products from producers in southeastern Pennsylvania, in addition to what grows in my garden, and why flour, pasta and apple juice are about the most highly processed foods I buy. I can find Pennsylvania flour for my bread, but for rice, spice and the occasional orange or date, I have to get transcontinental. 

All of the farms that produce this food use gasoline- or diesel-powered equipmentand spend a significant chunk of their budgets on equipment and technology that comes from all over the world. The electricity running their freezers and coolers comes from a grid that covers several states. Many of those purchases are made in stores that survive by selling highly processed goods from all over the world, such as figs from Turkey and pasta from Italy. (Likely made with wheat imported from the U.S.) Still, my practices reinforce loops, create jobs, reduce energy consumption and preserve necessary skills in our region. Local thrift stores are my source whenever possible for clothes and household items, because that also recycles goods and money within the area, slowing down the conveyor belt of goods on their way from a Chinese factory to a landfill or incinerator in Pennsylvania. (I would be ecstatic if the thrift store had to close because no one was discarding still usable items, but that’s a good ways off.)  And, of course, Philadelphia has wonderful libraries and used book stores.

I pay cash at these local merchants. The cornerstone of the global economy is the financial sector, and to the extent we minimize our transactions with them, the better.  (No, my savings are not in my mattress, they are in a credit union, whose participation in the global economy is radically circumscribed by its nonprofit status and rules of operation.) 

Supporting our local economy is about accepting the limits of the resources and energy available to us, challenging the prevailing idea that we are entitled to whatever we want if we can afford it. It means that I won’t have another strawberry or asparagus spear till next spring, and I am gorging on peaches because they will only be around another month or so… but then the apples start!  

This will be the last regular “The Right Question” for the time being. I thank Grid for the opportunity to have written this column, congratulate the magazine on its 100th issue and stand in anticipation of many more. I hope you have found these columns challenging and stimulating. I would be glad to discuss what I have written and to receive any feedback you might like to share via email. Thank you for reading.

Jerry Silberman is a retired union organizer who now devotes his time to negotiating a resilient future for all of us. He can be reached at ajs805phila@verizon.net.

The Visible Woman

Why do we still not see black Americans as having a connection to the environment?

illustration by Abayomi Louard-Moore

illustration by Abayomi Louard-Moore

Interview by Heather Shayne Blakeslee

Carolyn Finney’s book “Black Faces, White Spaces” is a must-read for anyone who wants to better understand all of the ways in which African-Americans have been prevented from owning, accessing and having a public relationship with land, open space and the concept of “the great outdoors.” From exploring institutional racism in the National Park Service to lesser known history—black Air Force recruits in World War II had to have all-white beaches opened to them in order to train to serve their country—the book shines light on the underbelly of our white-dominated environmental movement.

National Park Service employees were very upfront during your research about not caring much about addressing exclusionary practices.
CF: One of the things I always say is that privilege has the privilege of not seeing itself... I’m clear when I talk to predominantly white audiences, that ultimately I want to engage people’s humanity, because it’s something that we all have… There’s real fear there, what they’re experiencing now in our country in multiple ways. So what happens? Let’s say I’m a white person who works for an environmental organization, I have a leadership position, I’ve had this for years, I am relevant because the dominant culture is “relevant,” and now you’re telling me that maybe I’m not relevant anymore. So what happens to me if we hire a black or brown person to be that new leader? What happens to me?... We’re dealing with a human being wondering about their own relevancy. So, for me, that’s what I think is behind some of the commentary.

What is the importance of addressing the racism internal to environmental organizations before trying to more broadly engage people of color?
CF: One of the things I often say to audiences is that I don’t use the term “outreach” anymore… It’s well-meaning, perhaps, it means I’ve “outreached” out to you, I can bring you to my table and make room for you, and then—you have to learn everything we do. You’ll always be responsive to us. We brought you here. They basically don’t have to do anything else, except bring you to the table. And, actually, we know that this is not a useful model, for many reasons, besides the fact that it puts all the onus on that person, that person of color, that person who is different, to do all the work. I call it “building relationships of reciprocity,” because when you are in a relationship, the onus is on both of you.

What role does the media play in reinforcing the idea that people of color are not welcome or associated with natural spaces?
CF: I always ask, “Who is not visible? Who do we not see here? When we see someone, what are they doing? The whole myth of black people “don’t” when it comes to the outdoors is just that—it’s just a myth. Because everyone, including black people, have diverse, complicated and complex relationships with the outdoors. … Driving around south Florida [where I did my research], the thing that you will see almost immediately is black and brown people fishing at the canals. You can’t miss them, it’s every day. But it’s as though we can’t see them. As though that doesn’t count. … It’s not always about climbing a mountain. 

You write that, for slaves, “The ‘woods’ induced both positive and negative feelings: a place that was resource-rich, a place of transformation and refuge... but also a place to fear.” You talk a lot about fear in the book, but can you talk about the positive side for African-Americans?
CF: Well, it’s funny that you say that because one of the reviewers of the book thought I didn’t talk about fear enough and wanted me to write a whole chapter about how African-Americans are afraid, and I was very frustrated with that request. Despite all of that fear, black people go on and feel joy, go on and get creative… People are still laughing and falling in love and getting married, creating music, creating art.

You said it really beautifully in the book. You wrote, “While fear as a by-product of white supremacy and oppression was/is certainly part of the lived reality for many African-Americans, focusing solely on the fear denies the malleability of the black imagination to create and construct a rich reality that is not grounded primarily in fear, but in human ingenuity and the rhythms and the flows of life.”
CF: Yes! I like that, too! We’re not always here just to respond to white oppression. We’re living our own lives, like other people do. Sometimes life exists in spite of that other stuff. This is where the creativity comes from and what I want to honor.

You wrote upfront in the book about what it means personally to you to be a black woman writing about the environment.
CF: So, before I am black, I am a human being. And I always want to say that, because what that means is that I am connected to every other human being. I’m part of the species of human beings. And I’m different because I’m black, or different because I’m a woman and all the other ways that I may be different from other people—but I’m a human being. And so I try to understand, ‘What is it about me being different that is challenging in this country?’ So it’s my aspiration to be seen as more fully human, to belong, to be in relationship with all kinds of people. To be visible—I don’t want to be invisible. I want to be visible. I want to be valued. Who doesn’t want to be valued? It’s an intense desire for me and the people I love to be seen, and to increase my own ability to see. I don’t see everything! I have blinders on and I don’t want to. So what does that mean? I’m really interested in all the ways in which we are a person in the world.

Carolyn Finney, Ph.D., is a performer, writer, cultural geographer and a professor in geography at the University of Kentucky.

Dream Makers

NextFab’s expansion is also an evolution from makerspace to incubator

Sept2017_DreamMakers.jpg

By Danielle Corcione

Entrepreneur Jessie Garcia walked into Philadelphia-headquartered makerspace NextFab with an idea, and walked out with her company, Tozuda. 

A former student athlete who knew the risks of repeated head injuries, Garcia developed a small sensor that can be attached to any type of helmet. It activates under force and changes color to indicate concussion risk, and the product comes with a can’t-forget-it tagline: “If it’s red, check your head.” 

At other makerspaces, Garcia may have just gone in, prototyped her product and walked out. In fact, that’s what she may have done when NextFab first opened its doors in 2010, when Evan Malone founded NextFab to bring the maker movement—an umbrella term for independent inventors, designers and tinkerers—to the City of Brotherly Love.

Particularly, Malone wanted to “bring in advanced manufacturing tools to help entrepreneurs and artists use these tools and do great things.” He teamed up with University City Science Center to open a West Philadelphia location more as a “gym” than the cohesive, complex spaces he runs today.  

But now, in addition to providing the physical tools to help professionals kickstart their businesses, NextFab wants to be a development resource, especially for first-time entrepreneurs. The space has started an incubator program that hosts companies such as Garcia’s on-site and helps them get the answers they need to move forward as a business.

“[NextFab] took my product to the next level in terms of manufacturing capabilities,” Garcia adds. “[Before], I only had access to a 3D printer, but now, things that would cost me several thousands of dollars, I can make now for a 10th of the price. I’ve learned skills I can repeat over and over. Before, I would’ve contracted these skills out.”

Under NextFab’s mentorship, Garcia’s original target demographic of student athletes expanded into the much larger markets of professional sports players and construction workers, giving her young company an even greater chance for success. 

“[The incubator program] helped me think bigger,” Garcia says. “I came in very focused on athletics, but with [Next Fab’s venture services manager’s] help, we realized we should look at different market segments that are affected by concussions and brain injuries.”

NextFab is pinning its own success as a company on positioning itself as a place where entrepreneurs can take advantage of a holistic approach to product development, and remaining flexible and nimble. While other local makerspaces—such as the Department of Making + Doing and the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym—have closed, Malone’s network has continued to expand. In addition to two locations in Philadelphia, they’ve opened a Wilmington, Delaware, location.

“We’ve got a lot of investment capital,” Malone explains. “We’ve got great people. We have a lot of different methods of making money and don’t have all our eggs in one basket. The maker movement is evolving rapidly. It doesn’t pay to have a locked-in model, from my perspective.”

Each space provides informative classes in 2-D and 3-D printing and photography, design software, electronics, jewelry, laser cutting and engraving, metalworking, textiles and woodworking. Class levels begin at “introductory” and progress to “expert.” This constant knowledge exchange helps makers become more well-rounded and network with other members, who may potentially become business partners or colleagues.

“Each location is a collection of shops,” added Laate Olukotun, marketing manager of NextFab. “Traditionally, most of the shops would be their own businesses and private entities. What’s cool about NextFab is that under one roof, you have everything from a wood shop to a metal shop.”

Membership plans—which grant access to classes, resources, equipment, a growing community and expert staff at all three locations—range from $19 to $199 per month.

Malone says the accelerator program that Garcia participated in takes a would-be business titan “from raw idea to launching a business and getting ready to reach the market. It takes companies through all the necessary steps for a successful business model.”

In addition to providing mentorship and tools over a 12-week period, NextFab invests up to $25,000 in each team in its RAPID Hardware Accelerator program—look for the launch of their third accelerator cohort this fall.

Arts Vs Crafts

The Kamihira gallery straddles the line between art showcase and makerspace

Photo by Megan Matuzak

Photo by Megan Matuzak

By John Henry Scott

Artist Tosh Kamihira opened the Kamihira gallery and store at Frankford and Sargent last year, and since then has sought to be “an outlet for local makers.” It’s not uncommon for people with a fine art background or education to make the shift into the world of craft and function, and Kamihira is on that path. 

Across our own city, many artists work with both craft and art, the former lending itself not only to making money but also to changing the way people interact with their everyday objects. According to artist Thomas Pontone, who has curated a group show at the space and is also at work on a series of minimalist stools, “It seems more justified to have an object in your home if it serves a purpose.” 

Jessica Hans, a studio artist based out of East Falls who also makes functional flower vases, explores the arts-vs.-craft line in her work as well. 

“I’ve always teetered on the edge of functional and sculptural, allowing the work to retain its sense of usefulness,” she said. 

Since opening, Kamihira has also featured gallery shows from artists such as Alyssa Piro, John Mitchell, Will Haughery and Will Kelly. The shop sells merchandise from local brands such as 1733 (handcrafted bags), Dog Pasta (ceramics) and Kamihira Tees (shirts designed by Tosh and his brother Leks). 

Kamihira’s friends, Walter Wynne and Wai-Jee Ho, also reckon with the line between art and function in their studio practice. Together, they make handcrafted furniture, upholstered with fabric woven on the premises. They call their Port Richmond studio WW Woodworking.

“I realized during my first year in art school that I could never be an artist, that I needed the constraints of functionality,” said Ho. 

“I had a similar reaction at school,” said Wynne. “I needed to step away from the conceptualized aspect of everyone else’s work and root myself in some sort of craft-based process.” 

The couple met at Cooper Union, the prestigious New York City art school, an environment that led both of them to think about the expressive nature of art versus the functional nature of craft.  

Ho and Wynne moved to Philadelphia (Wynne’s hometown) shortly after their graduation and set up the studio a few years later. 

Ho weaves and prints the designs on the fabric that upholsters Wynne’s furniture.

“The weaving began as a response to the furniture Walt was making,” she said. “We were trying to find fabric for the furniture and kept hitting a wall.” 

“Time and material for the cushions began to outweigh the cost of making the chair,” added Wynne. 

Weaving their own fabric allows Ho and Wynne to have a greater degree of control over the furniture-making process in terms of the materials they’re using. 

Pieces from WW Woodworking are made to order. Clients select an existing form from the website and are free to customize it with choice of color and (to some extent) wood. For now, according to Ho and Wynne, WW is more a studio than it is a business, focused on developing ideas instead of turning a profit.  

For Kamihira, the line between art and craft is becoming irrelevant, as long as he keeps working himself as he tries to make a go of the gallery. 

“As far as craft goes, I think it’s really important for me to make things,” said Kamihira. “Whether I define it as craft or art has no bearing in my mind. I find that people in my position as a gallerist/shop owner often lose track of what it is that we’re doing and what [a gallery setting or marketplace] means to makers if we are not ourselves making things.”

The Kamihira Gallery, 2527 Frankford Ave.

Arts Roundup

Artists, exhibits and projects to watch this fall 

Sept2017_ArtsRoundup.jpg

Philadelphia Assembled’ Spotlights the Resistance
Artists and activists of any city’s creative scene usually exist in tension with its more established institutions, which is what makes this month’s “Philadelphia Assembled” show so interesting. The Philadelphia Museum of Art, in collaboration with a diverse network of artists, storytellers, gardeners, healers and others—curated by artist Jeanne van Heeswijk—will explore the collective acts of resistance that artists have been making in Philadelphia over the past year. The exhibit seeks to ask the question, “How can we collectively imagine our futures?” Vacant space, mass incarceration, climate change and what it means to be a sanctuary city are some of the themes that have been explored in the works throughout Philadelphia this year, now collected in the exhibit running Sept. 10 through Dec. 10, at the Perelman Building at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

LandLab Residencies Connect Art and Nature
The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education in Roxborough is home to a number of innovative programs and has been quietly building an art program to address local environmental issues through art installations and public engagement. Three new artists have been chosen for the 2017–2018 year: Maryland-based nonprofit Dance Exchange will look at physical movement related to waterways; Brooklyn multimedia artist Jan Mun will create an ultimately edible mushroom vortex maze that explores how rootedness in place relates to centeredness and meditation; and, finally, Philadelphia landscape architect and artist Kate Farquhar will create a project titled “Synestates,” which will insert what she calls “mythic micro-environments” throughout the center to imagine future possibilities of how humans might interact with our natural surroundings. The program is a joint venture between SCEE and the Center for Emerging Visual Artists. 

Photography Book Explores Philadelphia’s Past
Workshops and factories. Sporting clubs and societies. Synagogues, churches and theaters. Throughout Philadelphia, hidden places offer insight into Philadelphia’s past. Photographers Joseph E.B. Elliott and Nathaniel Popkin—in collaboration with writer Peter Woodall of Hidden City Philadelphia fame—are set to release “Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City” through Temple University Press. Temple has framed the book as a look into “the city’s vivid layers and living ruins” rather than simply presenting a “nostalgic elegy to loss and urban decline.” Preorders are on sale for the November release.

PHS, RAIR and Built Environment Artists Receive Pew Grants
A slew of Philadelphia artists have just received grants from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, including a $75,000 fellowship to dancer Nichole Canuso. Other fellowships went to Brenda Dixon Gottschild, known for surveying the influence of black dance and choreography in America, and Moon Molson, a filmmaker specializing in what he calls “the language of the streets,” with a particular emphasis on films that represent people of color. Landscape architects Anuradha Mathur and Dilip da Cunha received a joint fellowship to explore the geographic lines that separate land and water—as well as urban and rural environments—and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society was awarded a grant to recreate Thomas Paine Plaza into a “farm-to-park” civic commons to spark conversations on urban agriculture, food access and community revitalization. Up-and-comer RAIR (Recycled Artists in Residence) has also received a grant to fund a project that conceptualizes waste as cultural artifact.

2020 Vision

Artists stand in solidarity and look toward the next election

Sept2017_2020Vision.jpg

By Brittany Barbato

On Jan. 20President Trump’s inauguration day—commuters and residents all around Philadelphia found signs of resistance dropped from dozens of buildings encouraging them on their way to work: You can’t take away our resilience, our humanity, our strength, our beauty. Aquí me quedo and Sanctuary city for everybody read two of the signs. Though the voices felt personal, they also captured a collective anxiety and hope on that morning. 

The project, “Signs of Solidarity,” started as an effort to speak out and lend support to the community after the divisive 2016 presidential election. Artists and concerned Philadelphia citizens Conrad Benner, Aubrie Costello and Eric Preisendanz hatched a plan to create and hang banners from private homes and buildings that would reinforce messages of love and unity to counteract the hate they felt sweeping the country. Support for the project from fellow artists and building owners was immediate and overwhelming. 

“We received copious amounts of ‘yeses’ from artists and building owners who wanted to be a part of it,” says Costello. “I was overwhelmed by how quickly the scale grew.” If you lined the signs up next to each other, they’d stretch 150 yards, or the length of a football field. Amassing more than 3,600 square feet, they quintupled the size of the Oval Office where the new president would soon find himself in control of decisions impacting the lives of all Americans, including the very people in protest. 

In a matter of weeks, “SOS” evolved into a citywide effort of more than 30 Philly-area artists and dozens of local building and business owners. It also expanded to include 30 creatives in Atlanta, Georgia. The organizing trio, who know each other through the local art scene, quickly combined their strengths to pull off the large exhibit. Benner, streetsdept.com founder and editor, was in charge of external communications; Costello, an artist known for her silk graffiti installations, tackled logistics such as materials, design and artist communications; Preisendanz, a curator, helped develop messaging and handled the physical installations—climbing ladders, mounting hardware and tying lots of knots.

“It was absolutely important and necessary to co-lead and co-organize ‘Signs of Solidarity,’” Costello says. “Logistically, we could not have done it without each other and the 30-plus Philly creatives who helped us realize this project from start to finish.”

Kimberly Connerton, an installation artist who participated in the project, viewed “SOS” as an opportunity to do what art does best: create “a wider, more inclusive space for everyone to live in,” she says. Her sign hung above a window at Paradigm Gallery and Studio in South Philadelphia. She created small, golden lettering to outline her biggest hope: May every living being be safe and free.

Notable Philadelphia mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar also joined the effort. Featuring a sketch of an elongated mouth baring 38 teeth, his sign flapped against the stone arches of Broad Street Ministry’s front door. It included calls to action in every corner: Say it loud and clear. Speak up. Use your voice. You have a voice

Costello also created a banner; her signature torn silk ribbons spelled out a quote inspired by her best friend, whose husband is an undocumented immigrant who has lived and worked in the U.S. for more than 15 years: Kindness does not indicate weakness.

The hurdles were common to any project. Coordinating artwork, funding and time—there was an immovable Inauguration Day drop for the project—but the team also wrestled with wanting to be impactful without pointing fingers or limiting artistic vision. 

“A public project requires great care in its design since you’re really trying to talk to everybody,” says Preisendanz. “Our goals were to awaken and unite, not to offend or polarize.” 

Commitment to the mission and ongoing communication proved to be keys for success. “We worked together and we listened to each other,” Benner says. “We compromised and we kept our goal clear.” 

The approach will become even more critical as the co-organizers push the project into its second phase this fall. They plan to develop a sustainable funding model to integrate resistance messaging beyond urban centers and into suburban and rural areas. When asked why it was important to expand the project and engage more people outside urban centers, Preisendanz called out an uncomfortable statistic, and set his sights on the next election. 

“Creating highly public projects empowers modern resistance to disrupt political enclaves outside of the cities,” he said. “[It’s] a critical way to engage the 42 percent of America so politically disenchanted that they didn’t feel the need to vote to announce their values.”

Creative Placemaking

A house, a hearth and a home for community at the Open Kitchen Sculpture Garden

Photos by Nancy Chen

Photos by Nancy Chen

By Nancy Chen

On quiet Philip Street in Norris Square, just west of Fishtown and Kensington, artist Pedro Ospina began a project to build his house in 2010, working with friends and neighbors. 

While building both the structure and relationships in his community, he realized that it had become an art project in and of itself: The house was both a physical and a social sculpture. 

“It really changed the way I saw art,” he says. “I thought to myself, ‘This house will sustain me, whereas art so often can’t.’ Once I finished that project, where the theme was shelter, my next idea was to do a project about food.”

Ospina, who is of Colombian heritage and first came to Philadelphia in 1989, is now organizing a community space called the Open Kitchen Sculpture Garden, transforming a vacant lot, once littered with garbage, into a verdant green space and community gathering spot filled with colorful and eclectic forms contributed by different artists.

His vision is to use art to sustain the community in multiple ways: The fresh vegetables grown in the garden would sustain by providing food; the artful setting with original sculptures would build and sustain community, inviting friends and neighbors to come together.

Now, every Wednesday from 6 to 9 p.m., the garden hosts a potluck open to all. At a recent gathering, a group of 15 friends and neighbors shared dinner: smoke from baking pizza wafted from a clay oven that Ospina had built by hand. Hot slices topped with tomatoes and herbs from the garden were passed around. At the nearby fire pit, another guest, an iron welder by day, tended to a makeshift grill, slow roasting strips of beef and sharing homemade wine.

The garden has also become a venue for movie screenings and live music performances; some neighbors use the space to cook bread and to hang homemade sausages to dry. Upcoming events include a block party featuring local vendors, skill-share workshops, a plant soundscape and a Halloween party. 

Ospina continues to add new sculptures while leaving the space open to what the community wants to bring in. He’d also like to install solar energy panels. 

Justin Trezza, former executive director of the Norris Square Neighborhood Project, which holds the deed to the lot (it’s one of several on Philip Street that had become trash-dumping grounds), credits Ospina with doing the outreach to build a sense of community ownership. 

“[Pedro] is the one who got the buy-in from neighbors and convinced them to give their time and effort to help clean it up. What was waste was transformed into treasure,” said Trezza.

The residents of the block expressed their warm support for Ospina as well. Sue Ellen, a mother with two young daughters, said of the garden, “My girls love it, and I love it.” Sonia Rodriguez, who has lived on the block for 10 years and helped to clean up the lot, agrees. “Everyone gets together there for the music and movies. The park is also great for the kids in the neighborhood,” she said. “It gives more life.”

An Apple a Day

Three Springs Fruit Farm’s Ben Wenk starts Ploughman Farm Cider

Sept2017_AnAppleADay.jpg

By Emily Kovach

Ben Wenk is a fruit guy. Along with his family, he runs Three Springs Fruit Farm, a seventh-generation family farm in Adams County, Pennsylvania. The farm’s primary crop is apples, ranging from common varieties such as Gala and Golden Delicious to unique and heirloom strains, such as Summer Rambo and Cox’s Orange Pippin. Wenk and his father have been vendors at the Headhouse Square farmers market for the past decade, and after one of their first markets, Ben cracked open a Strongbow cider to unwind. It was the first dry cider he’d ever tasted. “I let dad try a sip and we were both blown away,” he says. Soon after, he began making cider in the farm’s barn. 

Wenk observed other regional craft cideries open, he realized what a boon cider could be for the rural community he called home. In 2016, he founded Ploughman Cider. To develop the recipes and methods that would launch the operation, he hired Edwin Winzeler, a member of the horticulture team at Penn State’s Fruit Research and Extension Center in Biglerville. “He’s been perfecting his [cidermaking] craft since long before we met,” Wenk says.

The cider is now fermented, blended, matured and bottled at Three Springs Fruit Farm, where the apples are grown. In 2017, Wenk expects to produce more than 4,000 gallons of finished product. To promote the brand, he’s organized a number of events throughout the spring with Philadelphia bars and restaurants, and has been sampling and selling at various farmers markets. “How am I balancing this and all the farm stuff at the same time? I have no idea!” Wenk says. “The not-so-big secret to getting it all done is the incredible people on our team at the farm—not the least of which are my dad, uncle and cousin.”

Ploughman’s first run of ciders includesStark, an American strong cider, and Lupulin Lummox, cider infused with Citra hops, as well as one-off blends based on “Edwin’s whimsy.” Wenk says that he is “committed to taking whatever is best on the farm any given year and doing something fun and enjoyable with those products.” As far as seasonal releases go, keep an eye out for Ploughman’s crabapple-based cider in autumn, as well as the new Ploughman 64 series of special farmers-market-only releases, some using fruit, cherries and other “proper cider fruits,” according to Wenk.

Grape Expectations

Historic Hopewell Vineyards grows wine grapes in Chester County

Sept2017_GrapeExpectations.jpg

By Emily Kovach

Nestled in a patch of verdant farmland in Oxford, Pennsylvania (about 30 miles southeast of Lancaster), sits Historic Hopewell Vineyards, a 2-acre vineyard run by Karen and Anthony Mangus. From the rich, well-drained Brandywine Valley soil, they grow seven varieties of wine grapes including merlot, cabernet sauvignon, pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc. They once counted a number of Pennsylvania wineries among their customers, but last year Karen and Anthony decided to exclusively partner with Chaddsford Winery for their entire grape production for at least the next three years. Grid enjoyed the chance to chat with Karen Mangus to learn more about the operation.

Tell us about Hopewell Historic Vineyards’ beginning. Did you have a background
in farming?

KM: We are “first generation” farmers. Through personal research, numerous classes and thousands of hours of interaction with other growers, we finally developed the confidence to prepare and plant our first 2 acres in 2003.

Before that, we were living in Northern Virginia, and we’d venture to wine events and vineyards, locally and as far as South America. The more we interacted with other growers and winery people, the stronger our passion became to do something similar. It took a decade of planning, research and education before moving to Chester County in 1999 with the primary purpose of planting a vineyard.

What drove your decision to just be a vineyard and not a full winery?
KM: Initially, our intent was to gain experience by growing grapes for several years, and then progress to a full-blown winery operation. We even had a well-developed business plan and private investors and a commercial bank on board. The economic “correction” of 2008 made us apprehensive, and we decided to concentrate solely on producing the highest quality vinifera [wine grapes] possible in our location.

What are some challenges you face growing wine grapes in Chester County?
KM: Our climate is very similar to the Burgundy region of France, where you can produce consistently high quality grapes and wine, but the higher level of moisture makes things more difficult. We have to deal with issues like weed control, fungus and mildew and unpredictable weather. These are not insurmountable, but require a considerable investment in technology and specialized machinery. 

We’re excited to learn about your solar program. Do lots of vineyards do this?
KM: In 2009, we installed our solar electric generating system: 132 solar panels directly on the north side of the vine rows, which generates over 40 kilowatts of clean energy and reduces carbon emissions by more than 20 tons per year.

There are several vineyards with solar generation systems; however, ours is one of the largest in the area. Part of our philosophy here at Historic Hopewell is to value and conserve our environment, and clean, renewable energy is a logical extension of that philosophy.

Seasonal Six-Pack

Fall flavors from regional craft breweries

Sept2017_SeasonalSixPack.jpg

By Emily Kovach

Homegrown American Lager
New American Lager • Victory Brewing Co.

Released in July, this new addition to Victory’s year-round offerings is a crisp, easygoing, medium-bodied lager that thinks like an IPA. This 4.8% ABV sipper is hopped generously with six varieties of hops (if you must know: Centennial, Mosaic, Azacca, Cascade, Chinook, Citra), and smoothed over with pilsner and Carapils malts.

South Pacific Hop Cartel
Double IPA • Levante Brewing Co.

On Sept. 14 at 6 p.m., this up and coming brewery in West Chester will hold a can release of their super popular double IPA. This cloudy brew is big on zesty, fruity flavors, including grape, lime zest, passionfruit and gooseberry. A special blend of Australian and New Zealand hop varieties gives a wallop of the green dankness that so many beer nerds crave.

DelcoFest
Oktoberfest • 2SP Brewing Co.

Always ready to rep Delco pride, 2SP is releasing a caramelly and toasty Oktoberfest beer on Sept. 1, just in time for Oktoberfest celebrations. At 6% ABV, this bready, balanced brew will be available in draft and 16 ounce cans, and will provide a nice change of pace from the citrusy high notes of summer beers.

Rustic AF
Saison • 2nd District Brewing Co.

The beers at South Philly-based 2nd District rotate a lot, as one might expect from a creatively minded brewery. This fall, keep an eye on their draft list for Rustic AF, a saison brewed with wheat and gently hopped with Saaz and Celeia. This is the brewery’s first beer to be fermented with its house-mixed culture, a multitude of microbes that earn the dry, tart and pungent saison its name.

The Floor is Lava
New England Style Nectarine IPA • Evil Genius Beer Co.

On Sept. 9, Evil Genius celebrates its sixth birthday at its new Front Street taproom in Fishtown. On deck for the event will be this anniversary beer, a hazy, juicy 6.7% ABV IPA brewed with American barley and British malted oats. They’ll add Centennial, Motueka, Simcoe and Mandarina Bavaria hops, and the liquid will be conditioned on local nectarines, processed in-house. 

Mop Water
Spiced/herbed Ale • Cape May Brewing Co.

Despite its shudder-inducing name, this ale boasts a cozy blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and whole-bean vanilla—harnessing the vibes of fresh-baked cookies with a 7.7% ABV to boot. Mop Water maintains that special autumnal feel without veering too far into contentious pumpkin-beer territory.

Now Pouring

Where to get your drink on this fall

Photo by Penn Jersey Paper

Photo by Penn Jersey Paper

By Emily Kovach

Philadelphia Distilling’s new tasting room
We previewed Philadelphia Distilling’s Fishtown facility and tasting room last fall, when it was still under construction. Walking through the raw industrial space, it was hard to imagine the exposed, graffiti-frosted walls making way for a large-scale production facility fronted by a posh, lively tasting room. Doors to the space officially opened in February, and the transformation is phenomenal. Sleek, gorgeous light fixtures and barstools frame a long, dramatic bar, which overlooks the distilling equipment through huge windows. Expert service and thoughtful cocktails that take Philadelphia Distilling’s award-winning libations from “still to shaker” all add up to a sophisticated bar/tasting-room experience. (Ed. Note— Grid's 100th Issue Party is at Philadelphia Distilling on Sept 14).
25 E. Allen St. • (215) 671-0346

Roy Pitz Barrel House at 9th & Spring Garden
This artful, creative brewing company, based out of Chambersburg, opened a barrel house in the burgeoning “Spring Arts” neighborhood (we still like to call it the Eraserhood) in June. With a strong focus on barrel-aged, funky and sour beers, this neo-industrial space makes up for its lack of coziness with colorful paintings, stylized lighting and plenty of seating for large groups. Replacing the chalkboard menu concept is a digital beer list with an up-to-the-minute list of drafts from Roy Pitz’s “liquid art” offerings. Choices range from the straightforward (Best Blonde golden lager) to the sublime (Cherry Hound sour ale), but all the pours pair well with the seasonal bar snacks coming out of the kitchen.
990 Spring Garden St. • (215) 995-6792

Bluebird Distilling in the Shops at Liberty Place
An import from Phoenixville, Bluebird brings handcrafted spirits, such as its four grain bourbon, Juniperus gin and sugarcane rum to Center City in its newly opened tasting room at the Shops at Liberty Place. This is not a bar, mind you—open daily from noon until 7 p.m., this spot really is just a tasting room and retail shop, with full-sized bottles on offer. That doesn’t mean you can’t drink there; guests can sample Bluebird’s wares via tasting flights ($5 for three, $8 for six, and if you buy a bottle, the price of the flights is subtracted from your purchase total).
27 S. 17th St.

Fishtown Brewpub
Does Fishtown have room for another small-scale craft brewery/gastropub hybrid? This spot, opened in mid-summer, is betting yes, with this seven-barrel brewery and adjoining bar housed in a historic building on Frankford Avenue that was once home to a hosiery mill and an elevator factory. On the brewing side, head brewer Steve Dieva is fluent in a range of beer styles ranging from New American ales to old world barrel-fermented beers. Chef Justin Koenig heads up the kitchen, putting up unpretentious—but clever—snacks and small plates (think: South Philly-style beef tartare), and the bar program goes beyond house brews to offer local favs such as Tröegs and Sly Fox, as well as a curated list of classic cocktails.
1101 Frankford Ave. • (215) 990-1396

Fermentery Form
Breaking the mold of a traditional brewery, Fermentery Form creates a new form, and a new model, for what it means to “make” beer. Instead of brewing their own wort, the team here buys the grain-infused liquid from other local breweries and tackles the fermentation process in-house, using their own “mother cultures” (yeasts and bacterias that many breweries purchase from labs). By controlling fermentation, aging and conditioning variables, Fermentery Form beckons its signature rustic farmhouse style from the unassuming imported wort. The West Kensington spot holds regular hours on Saturdays from 2 to 6 p.m. for bottle sales (which may be drunk in-house or taken away). Keep an eye out for tasting room hours, hopefully coming this fall.
700 N. Palethorp St. • (267) 518-3676

Art Galleries:
 The Original Instagram

A West Philly high school student reflects on how we curate our lives

Illustration by James Heimer

Illustration by James Heimer

By Cameron Swann

The first time I realized that I could make my world beautiful was during a summer program from The School of the New York Times, where I spent two weeks looking at how the curation of art affects how we perceive the art itself. My teacher, Anthony Titus, taught me a lot during those two weeks, but one thing he said stood out: Everything is curated. 

That really resonated with me, because in our society today we are so connected to social media—we see things, whether they are Facebook feeds or the walls of a gallery, in the way others want us to perceive the images. We are all trying to make our lives seem beautiful and interesting, even when they are not. I’d take pictures at events that would never happen again, places I wasn’t sure I would be able to visit again, things that I wanted to remember and brag about to the people I’d meet. 

Instagram in particular, with its emphasis on pictures and not text, is curated, and people usually only take pictures of the aspects of life they think others will deem beautiful and opulent. When I was reflecting on that fact, I thought of ways to turn my daily life into something beautiful, worth showing. I kept thinking I had to memorialize a moment I’d only do once in my life. I thought the ordinary and routine in my life couldn’t be considered beautiful—until I experienced the Whitney Museum of American Art, also in New York City. 

At the Whitney, the architecture and exhibits create a light-hearted and bright atmosphere that makes both the art and surrounding neighborhood look picturesque. The exhibit where I found the most beauty in the ordinary was “Where We Are,” which took pieces from the Whitney’s collection to show American lives from 1900 to 1960. It was broken up into sections by stanzas from the W. H. Auden poem “September 1, 1939.”

The poem and artwork showed everyday life and how things change dramatically whether you view an experience closely or at a distance. I found myself looking at a historical vantage point at the exhibit’s pieces about daily life from the Great Depression and World War II—when life wasn’t at its finest and happiest. And yet, there were beautiful creations from people documenting everyday lives, lives that were neither beautiful nor opulent in the way we measure on Instagram. One painting that stands out was “Gettin’ Religion” by Archibald J. Motley Jr.: It’s a colorful image of people in Harlem going home after a night on the town, dancing and playing music as others look on under the beautiful blue light of the moon. 

It made me realize that in the turmoil and dismay of our lives today, we can still find the artistic in everyday moments, even in the dirty work of society. I plan to create beauty and happiness by taking photographs of the mundane—I hope others will create their own beauty as well.

Cameron Swann is a student at West Philadelphia’s Workshop School.