Farm Team: Preparing the ground for the next crop of farmers

story by Shaun Brady | photos by Albert Yee. Roy Brubaker, patriarch of Village Acres Farm and his daughter Debra have recently become 50/50 partners in a Limited Liability Company to begin a more formalized succession processSeveral minutes after his family had gathered at a round table in their large, timber frame FoodShed, the patriarch of Village Acres Farm finally arrives. He offers his hand along with what turns out to be a characteristically droll introduction. “Hi, I’m the late Roy Brubaker.” 
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Gardening and cooking lessons hit the road in new Farm Explorer

The outside wrap on Greener Partner's Farm Explorer. The mobile gardening and cooking truck launches in early April. | Photo from Greener PartnersA new kind of food truck is rolling into town. One that isn’t just serving meals, but that allows diners to harvest and cook their food too. In April, Greener Partners, a five-county, Greater Philadelphia-based nonprofit that connects communities through food, farms and education, is launching their Farm Explorer – a 24-foot trailer that holds living vegetable beds and a community kitchen all hauled by a biodiesel Ford F-150 truck.

“The raised beds on Farm Explorer will mimic the (seasonally changing) raised beds in the fields of Hillside Farm, creating the most authentic farm experience we can,” says Helen Nadel, education specialist for Greener Partners. “Allowing children to have the experience of pulling food from the dirt and tasting how delicious it is can be a real ‘Aha!’ moment.”

Farm Explorer was inspired by research that found a curriculum combining gardening and nutrition education improves student attitudes and preferences for fruits and vegetables. Greener Partners hopes to connect children and families to their food through physical, sensorial and practical experiences. The end goal is to increase general health, reduce obesity rates and reconnect people with the pleasures of real food.

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Farm & Table: Three Philadelphia restaurateurs try their hands at farming

story by Liz Pacheco | photos by Neal Santos

Chef Jose Garces is in his outdoor kitchen making salmorejo—a cold Spanish soup similar to gazpacho. He adds bright yellow tomatoes to the food processor along with garlic, vinegar and baguette pieces. “A few years ago,” he says, “I would’ve made this with tomatoes from Mexico.” This afternoon, the tomatoes are from a very local source—Garces’ backyard, which doubles as a farm. This is the first full season for the 40-acre Luna Farm in Ottsville, which is named in honor of the Garces family dog as well as the brilliant nightscapes the property offers. The nearly 100 varieties of herbs and vegetables are organically grown for the Garces company restaurants—most specifically Philadelphia’s JG Domestic, which focuses on using local ingredients. But Garces isn’t the only, or first, Philadelphia chef to delve into farming. Mitch Prensky, owner and chef of Supper, is in his third year working with Blue Elephant Farm in Newtown Square, which grows solely for his restaurant and catering company. Last February, Andrea Rossi began cultivating in Orwigsburg on his farm, Grateful Acres. This spring, Rossi launched a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program through his restaurant C19. For these three chefs, the farms are creative challenges—they require money, planning, and of course, physical labor. At their restaurants, these chefs are no longer just cooking, they’re developing innovative models for combining the farm and the table.

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Leaders of the Pack: Kids and parents flock to Pennypack Farm

story by Shaun Brady | photo by Emily WrenOn spring, summer and fall afternoons, Pennypack Farm is the hot spot for local families. Parents gather at the Montgomery County nonprofit to examine the selection of crops laid out farmers market-style in the harvest house. Kids head straight for the U-Pick crops and start on rows of green beans, raspberries and other coveted produce. But fresh fruits and vegetables are not the only goodies these member families will return home with, says Margot Bradley, the administrative director and one of Pennypack’s founding members. “Every time somebody sets foot here, they’re going to learn something. We look at every visit to the farm as an education.”
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Farming It Out: Bartram’s Garden restores tradition with a new farm and community center

Two 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. 
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Save Wyck’s Chicks, join the Rock-Moving Party!

Image via (earth & fork)

Wyck Historic House and Garden has some chicks that need your help. Wyck’s hens have endured all the crazy Philly weather, but they’ve done it in the lowest, shadiest, wettest, muddiest part of Wyck’s property, where their run is located.

Wyck wants to improve their quality of life to keep the ladies happy, healthy, and safe from their oppressors—hawks, raccoons, dogs, and of course, the weather. They have a great spot picked out to relocate the run, but there’s just one problem: it’s full of half-buried rocks.

This is where you come in. The historic property has organized an event—well, two actually—to help move rocks, dig, rake and perform other impressive feats of physical labor in preparation for the hens’ new home. The Save Wyck’s Chicks Rock-Moving Party will happen this Thursday, Nov. 17 (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and Saturday, Nov. 19 (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.). A delicious lunch of chili and soup will be provided to volunteers, as well as hot drinks and sweet treats! You’ll also have an opportunity to explore the Wyck farm, take a sniff or two at the historical rose garden, and tour the 300-year-old Philadelphia house. But you’ll have to bring your own work gloves!

RSVP to emorrow@wyck.org to let them know which day you’ll be coming (so they can be sure to make enough chili!). 

Save Wyck’s Chicks Rock-Moving Party
Thursday, November 17, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Saturday, November 19, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. 

- Anna Louise Neiger

Fair Farm: Rally for farmers' rights TODAY in Philly

photo by foodandwaterwatch.orgStand up for farmers’ rights today in Philadelphia! Join Food and Water Watch, and other fair food organizations like Slow Food Philly, Farm To City, and Fresh Buy Local, to fight for Fair Farm Rules to be implemented in Pennsylvania.

The Fair Farm Rules of 2008 (or the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration Rules) address contract fairness in the livestock and poultry industries. The rules were intended to make it easier for farmers to compete with corporate agribusiness, so that fresh, sustainable food could be more accessible to the public. Although adopted in 2008, the industry has become more consolidated and the intervention by giant poultry and livestock operations has successfully stopped these rules from being enforced. 

Now, with Farm Bill 2012 on the horizon, the 2008 Fair Farm Rules need to be widely enforced on a government level to provide the greatest benefit to small-scale producers. Other cities, like Allentown, Pa. and Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo in Michigan are holding similar rallies, to encourage the rules’ enforcement.

While the Fair Farm Rules are intended for livestock and poultry farms, they have the potential to impact all agriculture, says Emily Heffling of Food and Water Watch.

“There is consolidation across the boards in agriculture. This [rally] could serve as a domino effect for other areas of agriculture, either positive or negative.”

Heffling hopes that the rally’s success is the first step toward contract fairness for local farms.  

Join Food and Water Watch to urge Senator Casey to stand up for Pennsylvania small farm rights. For more information visit foodandwaterwatch.org.

Fair Farm Rally, Thurs., Nov. 3, 1:30 p.m, 2000 Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19102

Farmer’s Delight: Nic Esposito, co-founder of Philly Rooted and developer of the Walnut Hill Community Farm, explains how the Collaborative helped make his farm a masterpiece

In my experience creating urban farms, the conflict I have most often faced is between the desire for high-end craftsmanship and the need to just get the project going. I’ll be the first to admit that the community organizer in me usually errs on the side of the latter. But with the Walnut Hill Community Farm, the Collaborative’s consulting helped Philly Rooted attain this elusive equilibrium.
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Put It In Your Pocket: How the garden at Southwest Philly’s Mitten cooperative house became the neighborhood-magnet Pocket Farm

"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.

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So You Want to Be a Farmer? It's hard work - but it's also easier than you think.

At the most fundamental level, food is inseparable from farmers. The richness of our seemingly boundless land beckoned settlers across the continent to build the homesteads, farms and ranches that became the cradle of the first American Dream, literally feeding the growth of a young nation. In 1935, the number of farms in America peaked at 6.8 million, just as the population topped 127 million citizens.

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Meadow Run Farm

 

The strongest prosthelytizing tool in a food sustainability advocate’s bag-o’-tricks might just be a farm fresh egg. Crack that thing open into a hot skillet and watch onlookers gasp in awe at a yolk the color of a perfect Florida orange.

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