Greener Partners Teaches Philly to Farm

Our region is ripe for growing some seriously amazing produce—if only people would take advantage of it. That's where Greener Partners comes in.

Swiss chard at Greener Partners' Hillside Farm in Media

When was the last time someone told you they wanted to be a farmer when they grow up? Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever talked to a farmer-to-be, someone totally in touch with how food goes from seed to table. That’s probably because less than one percent of Americans claim farming as an occupation, according to the EPA. And quite frankly, that’s a problem.

But Greener Partners, a farm-based non-profit, is helping to fix this. Four years ago, a group of innovative entrepreneurs got together and decided they would get Philadelphians back in touch with the land around them by opening accessible, educational and, most important, functional farms.

Since then, GP has opened farm hubs in both Media and Collegeville, serving over 200 families with local produce. They’re currently working to open a third in Norristown. Besides bringing farm-fresh food to Philly, GP actively educates youth and adults on sustainable farming. They achieve this by hosting events (see below), providing access and affordability to low-income families, and training and mentoring the next generation of farmers.

“People simply don’t know where food comes from or how to prepare it anymore,” says Jason Ingle, executive director of Greener Partners. “We have a lot of work to do in those areas to even entertain the idea of having communities form a long-lasting relationship with their local farmers.”

But isn’t Philly the farthest thing from good farmland? Apparently we’ve been selling our city short. According to Ingle, we have tons of potential as a farming haven.

“We have some of the richest farmland soils in the world, a temperate climate that allows us to grow produce almost year-around, and a customer base that understands the value of local and organic produce and will support these farms to make them viable over the long term,” he says.

The only problem: it seems we don’t take advantage of this. According to a recent Washington Post story, Philadelphia has the highest obesity rate of America’s 10 biggest cities, a chilling statistic for a city filled with 60+ farmers’ markets.

And when GP founders noted how much land was being preserved in the region but was sitting unused, they made a plan to change it.

“Our goal was very simple: get our hands on a piece of ground in a place proximate to where people lived, and instead of building more underused parks or ballfields, establish a community farm that provides fresh organic produce for the surrounding community and creates a place where kids and families could connect to land, the food grown on it, and nature in general,” Ingle explains.

And although what GP does is about all health, education and sustainability, why they do it is often more satisfying.

“The most fulfilling part is seeing a child from the Main Line walking down a row of strawberries with a child from Chester, from such different social and economic background but brought together by the power of delicious, fresh, healthy fruit,” Ingle says.

For more information on Greener Partners’ programs, including how to get fresh food or learn about farming in our region, click here.

Check out this list of upcoming Greener Partners events:

Cob Oven
Saturday, July 21 through Sunday, July 22 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Farmer Mark Series: Composting
Saturday, July 28 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Eating Seasonally with Sarah
Saturday, August 4 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.

Garden Fresh Gumbo
Saturday, August 11 at 11 a.m.

Mater Tater
Saturday, August 18th, 2012 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Growing with your Garden – Pollinators & Beneficial Insects
Wednesday, September 12 from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Hillside Farm Pig Roast & Square Dance
Friday, September 28th, 2012 from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Hillside Farm Heirloom & Heritage Festival
Saturday, September 29th, 2012 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.