Name of Innovative Program:
Community Farm and Food Resource Center at Bartram's Garden
Bartram's Garden (John Bartram Association)
Name of Innovative Program Lead:
E-mail Address of Innovative Program Lead:
The Community Farm and Food Resource Center (CFFRC) at Bartram’s Garden is the result of a highly successful partnership devoted to engaging, empowering, and transforming one of the city’s most underserved communities. Located in Southwest Philadelphia, the CFFRC boasts 2 acres of vegetable plots, 30 family gardens, a 2500-square-foot greenhouse, and an orchard of 115 fruit trees—all this in a neighborhood with less than 1% tree coverage and significant numbers of brownfields, vacant homes, and abandoned industrial sites. Tended largely by a team of 20 local students, the CFFRC invites residents to connect directly with their food sources and with nature, inspiring everything from healthier eating to increased interest in science education to greater appreciation for the natural world. In addition to providing income and professional training for participating families and students, the CFFRC serves as an important source of fresh, organic food for an entire community in the midst of a food desert. Food insecurity and inadequate nutrition have been linked to myriad health issues, including not only diabetes and cardiovascular illnesses but also depression, anxiety, aggression, and other behavioral health issues. Supported by a network of partners and community stakeholders, the CFFRC helps Southwest Philadelphia grow.
Creativity and Innovation:
The CFFRC models mindful partners and an engaged community working together to meet modern challenges. Although today our neighborhood is one of the city’s most distressed and industrialized, the CFFRC represents a living link to our agricultural past. Building off the legacy of Bartram’s Garden, founded by America’s first naturalist, we preserve our heritage while strengthening today’s community with creative programming and outreach. The vegetable plots are largely tended by 20 local high school students. School groups and families visit to take part in Bartram’s Garden educational programming and to tend their garden plots. The CFFRC provides a unique opportunity for hands-on science learning and positive experiences in nature. The benefits of this resource are not limited to improved test scores: studies have shown that children who are exposed to outdoor education and activities make healthier lifestyle choices and have increased self-esteem and better cooperation, conflict-resolution, and problem-solving skills.
To reach its many goals, the CFFRC is backed by a team of dedicated partners playing indispensable and complementary roles in programming, operations, and funding. In addition, each partner is an active participant in related community issues.
- Bartram’s Garden provides land, maintenance, an orchard caretaker, and educational programming.
- Penn’s Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative (AUNI) manages the site and the 20 students responsible for tending the farm.
- The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) leads the nationally recognized City Harvest program, which allows local residents direct access to fresh, locally grown produce. They also oversee the greenhouse, which distributes seedlings to families and other urban gardens.
- The City of Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation provides maintenance support and the funding to install electricity and water hook-ups.
- The Philadelphia Orchard Project provides ongoing technical expertise for planting and maintaining the orchard’s 115 fruit trees.
Urban agriculture reduces dependency on established food systems and combats food deserts. The CFFRC successfully addresses three aspects of sustainability:Economy: The CFFRC promotes entrepreneurship, providing income for at-risk students. The students also learn professional and life skills, with a focus on college preparedness. The partners’ commitments are anchored in their respective missions, ensuring long-term investment.Environment: Transforming an underutilized part of Bartram’s Garden to support food production has increased biodiversity. Situating the CFFRC between the Garden and the 58th Street Greenway allows for responsible use of the area’s resources.Equity: The CFFRC provides low-income residents with organic produce and positive experiences in nature, combating problems such as diabetes, depression, and hunger. Direct engagement with school students and residents addresses food insecurity in an enduring way. Distributing the produce through the food cupboard system through PHS’s City Harvest has a broader impact in Southwest and West Philadelphia.
The success of the CFFRC depends upon the complementary missions and combined strengths and resources of the participating non-profit and municipal partners. The essential elements of the CFFRC include access to land and programming, provided by Bartram’s Garden; expertise in urban farming, brought by AUNI; PHS’ mission-driven interest in urban agriculture and horticulture; and the municipal partnership made possible by the Department of Parks and Recreation. Each of the partners is also committed to education, which ensures that the project can have a lasting impact in the Southwest Philadelphia community. The CFFRC has already served as a model for similar projects in the area. A community garden in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood opened this spring, backed by a range of non-profit and municipal partners, including PHS. The garden is already host to 22 families, with an additional 20 plots and a greenhouse planned for other neighbors and local students.
The CFFRC continues to engage, empower, and transform one of the most underserved neighborhoods in Philadelphia. With deeper connections to nature, increased access to fresh and healthy food, and a heightened awareness of healthy food and lifestyle habits, we are growing together for a healthier community.Specific outcomes include:
- Distributing 7000 pounds of produce for low-income residents.
- Promoting healthy lifestyle changes in a supportive community.
- Revitalizing the area’s historic legacy of agriculture and stewardship in the Bartram spirit of discovery through nature.
- Empowering youth with peer-driven food distribution and promoting new food choices through tastings, cooking demonstrations, and recipes.
- Distributing 60,000 seedlings to community farms and neighborhood gardens.
- Creating safe communities and reducing stress-related illnesses through urban green spaces.
- Mentoring 20 high school students as they master professional and life skills.
- Offering garden plots to 30 local families.
- Welcoming school groups to learn about urban agriculture, organic food, and stewardship.