Philadelphia does Yardsharing: Part 2

By lawrence

Philadelphia does Yardsharing: Part 2

Germantown Kitchen Garden

History/Background

In October 2008, Amanda Staples and her husband, Matt, purchased a home in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia. Though they had previous experience in both urban and organic farming, they were shocked when they arrived and saw the jungle of wild rose bushes and weeds covering the 1.5 acre plot--a result of 35 years worth of abandonment! Nonetheless, they cleared the land and with some help from Pennsylvania’s Horticultural Society’s City Harvest Growers Alliance, they dug 45 vegetable beds and planted fruit trees, berry bushes, herbs, and perennials. During our conversation, Amanda said, “We wanted to have a farm, but still enjoy the benefits of city life. We wanted to run a farm business, which involved buying a piece of land, rather than squatting on city owned property that would eventually be taken from us.” Soon, they started a CSA and sold produce to neighbors in addition to a restaurant.

Current Status

Over the last year, Amanda has made several changes to the Germantown Kitchen Garden (GKG) business model. Instead of a CSA, she sells the produce at market prices two days a week at a farmstand. GKG gained approval to accept FMNP vouchers April of 2011 and SNAP benefits March of 2014 in order to give more community members access to locally grown, fresh, organic food. Later in 2014, Amanda plans to build a greenhouse so she can propagate seedlings both to plant in her farm and sell. Amanda said that though GKG “currently makes enough money to sustain itself… in the future I hope to make a little bit of money from it.” 

Opportunities

GKG has provided Amanda and Matt the rare opportunity to grow and sell food while living in the city. They enjoy providing organic food to the community and to themselves, though they are also looking forward to building a greenhouse and increasing their farmstand sales to make the farm an economically sustainable enterprise. Furthermore, despite the enormous initial work of clearing their land, Amanda and Matt were lucky to pick this property. Unlike many other parts of the city, it has low lead levels and plentiful organic content from the surrounding trees.

Challenges

All farming is difficult, but farming on city land brings many distinctly urban challenges. Though Amanda and Matt have managed to clear their land of the jungle that once covered it, they are still dealing with rubble and concrete left over from a building that used to occupy the space. They got creative, building retaining walls and walkways instead of throwing out the debris. And as is important with all urban farms, they tested their soil for heavy metal contaminants. Even though the results indicated that the soil was not toxic, it was a stressful process. The most pressing challenge of all, however, has been making a profit off of a city-farm, a challenge faced by urban farm enterprises all across the country. As previously stated, the farm is generating just enough money to keep itself going, and Matt has had to take a day-time job to generate more income.

Organization Structure/Contact Info

When asked about the structure of her program, Amanda immediately made it clear that GKG is not a program; it is a for-profit farm run by her and her husband. Since Matt now has a day-job, Amanda mainly runs the farm. 

Amanda can be reached by her email, germantownkitchengarden@gmail.com or 610-405-4881. She has a blog for the farm, http://germantownkitchengarden.com, and the farm is located at 215 E Penn Street, Philadelphia PA 19144.