Tag Archives: CSA

Awesome Project: Mill Creek Farm

Will Smith is no longer the freshest thing to come out of West Philadelphia. Sorry. Had to.

Since 2006, the Mill Creek Farm, founded by Johanna Rosen and Jade Walker, has been providing its local community with fresh, organic produce galore. Located between the major commercial corridors of Market Street and Lancaster Avenue, this formerly vacant lot has since been transformed into a burgeoning farm, teeming with fresh okra, beans, and bees.

The Mill Creek Farm’s existence stemmed from the idea that everyone should have access to local, organic, culturally-relevant food. In an interview with ioby, Johanna Rosen states, “Taking this trashy overgrown lot and turning into something that’s productive for the neighborhood and providing food access where there are limited options is very critical.” The farm is in the midst of a food desert where the option to buy fresh, local, pesticide-free produce is extremely limited, or nonexistent. Walker and Rosen, already experienced in agriculture and education, wanted to extend their knowledge to the surrounding community.
In a short documentary, below, about the Mill Creek Farm, Jade Walker talks about how the farm sprouted to life. She says, “We deserve the option to eat locally and to feed ourselves with food that we culturally want to be eating and that makes sense to us as far as recipes, as far as our family history, and that we also deserve to have the option to have food without pesticides.” And that’s exactly why the two farmstands of Mill Creek Farm offer affordable, below-market prices, and serve as the only ones in the area that accept Farmer’s Market Nutrition coupons and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) benefits.

Rosen can testify to the excitement of local residents to some of the food made available by the Mill Creek Farm. “Our first year we grew one row of okra and learned very quickly that that was not enough. Now we grow three rows of okra and usually still sell out of it within the first hour of market because it’s in such high demand. I think that just speaks to the fact that people can’t get the fresh produce they want other places…and it’s also really important that we’re providing a quality that people come back for; that it’s picked the same day, that it’s grown without any chemicals.”

While the Mill Creek Farm has faced some challenges in securing the land for permanent use, it serves as a staple to the community for those who volunteer and benefit from the cheap, accessible produce. In The Mill Creek Farm documentary Walker explains, “I don’t think that people come out to our volunteer days and community work days or even just stop by in the neighborhood because everyone wants to grow up and be a farmer…people want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. It’s an intrinsic human need to be working with other people, and be outside, and be touching the earth, and I think that’s what’s so cool about the farm here.” With that kind of passion driving the volunteers and friends of The Mill Creek Farm, it does not seem that they will be going anywhere anytime soon, at least not without a fight from the people in the community who have benefited from the Mill Creek Farm team and its dedicated and thankful residents.

With its seventh growing season in the works, the Mill Creek Farm is now looking to bring on two new staff members to help out with the prosperous farm, and help bring new ideas to the table. Its project on ioby has successfully raised $1800 and seeks to raise $8535 more. The money raised will also help to run its youth education program, and buy market supplies. With your help they can continue to provide healthy organic vegetables, fruits (and honey!) to local residents of West Philadelphia.


Awesome Project: Xquizit Greens

For more than two decades, 143 Stockholm, an NYPD-owned vacant lot, was a neighborhood dumping ground and an ideal growing site for Ailanthus altissima, foul-smelling trees infamous for thriving in urban wastelands. Laying in between boarded up buildings, the 5,000 square feet lot is located in Bushwick, Brooklyn, a largely Latino community where access to fresh food is limited. Recently, local artists have taken a keen interest in the space and are negotiating a four-year lease with the NYPD to turn the decaying lot into a flourishing community garden and green arts space.

Kaitlin Crowley, 24, after serving an apprenticeship with a CSA farm in New Jersey, was looking for a vacant lot to turn into an a community garden in Bushwick. It did not take long for her to realize that contacting the owners of vacant lots would be a challenge. “Many [vacant lots] were privately owned so there was a lot of confusion,” explains Crowley. Luckily, a legal advocate friend of hers referred her to 596 Acres, a public education project aimed at providing information and legal assistance about accessing Brooklyn’s publicly-owned vacant properties. 596 Acres’ interactive online map of city-owned vacant lots and lots that have been reclaimed by the community, brought her to 143 Stockholm.

Around the same time, Kim Holleman, 38, the artist behind Trailer Park: A Mobile Public Park—a portable public park housed inside an 18’x8’x7′ mobile repurposed travel trailer—was looking for a site to permanently park her socially and ecologically-minded creation. Since 2006 the portable park has been traveling throughout the streets of New York City, providing curious passersby with a green space to enjoy in their neighborhood. Holleman was interested in parking her living sculpture in a community garden located in Bushwick, where she has been a resident for 13-years and has an art studio. A quick zip code search via 596acres.org resulted in her joining forces with Crowley to revitalize 143 Stockholm.

The site has been named Xquizit Greens, a name derived from a car repair shop in Bed-Stuy called Xquizit Motors, which Crowley happened to pass by. “Xquizit Greens says to us that this is a spot where something beautiful and unexpected happens,” Crowley explains. With the neighborhood suffering from one of the highest levels of poverty and diabetes in the city and limited fresh and healthy food options, Crowley hopes that Xquizit Greens can provide a local food source and encourage healthy eating in Bushwick. She plans to promote purchasing seeds with food stamps through the SNAP program and have individual parcels along with communal beds.

In addition to the community garden, a green arts space will also take place at Xquizit Greens, with Kim Holleman’s trailer leading the way. Both Holleman and Crowley are anticipating to host workshops that include topics such as composting, seed saving, canning, jam-making and hot-sauce making at Kim’s trailer.

The Xquizit Greens team started cleaning up the lot on January 29 and have been meeting every Sunday since. Curious neighbors, including Ben Bois, an urban agriculturist, and Kate Mitchell, a native plants gardener, eagerly got involved in the project. Crowley says she feels lucky to be “working with talented, driven and passionate people.” A number of contractors and construction workers have volunteered to build stuff for the lot. “It feels great to make something happen with them,” she adds.

Crowley, who is also a Buying Manager for the Bushwick Co-op, is currently working on building partnerships with local businesses in order to use bike trailers to collect raw food scraps and compost them along with kitchen and yard waste from local residents. With a newly built 3-bin compost system, Xquizit Greens expects to begin the community compost program this May. “Composting is a priority for now… something we can all contribute together,” says Crowley.

Once enough soil is laid, Crowley would like to plant an edible fruit tree in the back of the lot—specifically, a Hardy Kiwi Tree from Mongolia. If all goes as planned, we will witness the demise of Ailanthus altissima, and the rise of edible trees in the 143 Stockholm lot–something truly “xquizit,” indeed.



Xquizit Greens will be tabling with the Bushwick Food Coop at the Ridgewood & Bushwick Flea Market at the Onderdonk House (1820 Flushing Ave. Ridgewood, Queens), on Saturday, April 28th (rain date: 4/29). Stop by their table to learn how to get involved in their current composting project or click here to sign up and help Xquizit Greens meet their fundraising goal.