Visiting the Mill Creek Urban Farm

Last week, I visited the Mill Creek Urban Farm located in West Philadelphia. Despite the inclement weather, we boarded the bus in the early morning to head over to the farm.

Once we arrived, we received a tour from one of the workers there, Jo, who explained the history of the lot, the farm, and what they do there. Leased by the Philadelphia Water Department, the lot was formerly a row of homes built with poor foundations. The houses were eventually torn down in the 1970s. On the west side of the lot, a community garden was created for the local community. Until 2005, however, the other side of the lot stood bare.

 The Brown St. community garden from a previous growing season

Jo explained the mission of the farm and how mostly everything grown here goes back to the community. Throughout the growing season, the harvested crops are sold to the neighborhood residents for a reasonable price. Because there is not a supermarket or grocery store in this area, residents often rely on a corner store with little food with good nutritional value for sustenance, a sad but ever present trend within urban populations. With this fact in mind, the farm was created to provide fresh produce to the community without discrimination of financial standing.

On the tour we were shown many things that enhance the character of the farm while still keeping within sustainable practices (and also allowed to sample the just picked asparagus which was out of this world!).

Besides growing their food organically, the farm uses a composting toilet, solar, panels, sustainable building materials such as cob walls and recycled pieces to decorate. Cob is a building material (seen in the photo) and is made from clay, sand, straw, and water. Cob is not only cost effective and made with out harmful chemicals but, it is also a great for heating and cooling buildings.

We also got to see (what I thought was the coolest thing!) a green roof. Although it was only a small scale roof, it was very cool to see a green roof filled with sedum and succlents and other plants that can absorb large amount of water for period and also thrive during drier periods. This design lowers cooling and heating costs effectively and with little maintenance.

After the tour, I was so excited to finally get my hands dirty and do some work! Our group helped weed a bed that would one day produce veggies. It was hard work but it felt very rewarding after we were done.

Weeding the beds

All in all it was a great way to spend a morning and the weather held out. I really enjoyed visiting the farm and seeing urban agriculture flourishing : )

-Danielle

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