A 2-acre plot of land is providing a dietary lifeline for a Philadelphia neighborhood that badly needs it.
The plot, which was once a dumping ground, was taken over by the Philly Urban Creators in 2010 and transformed into an urban farm for the locals of North Philadelphia.
The collective of artists and organizers now uses the farm to provide organic produce to families in the community, and to give hands on-training in organizing agriculture and entrepreneurship. The group also sells fresh food from the farm to restaurants in order to help sustain the project.
The project is bringing fresh food to a city where obesity has been an issue for residents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 67.9 percent of adults and 41 percent of kids ages 6 to 17 in Philadelphia are overweight or obese. The statistics are even worse in North Philadelphia, where almost 70 percent of youth are overweight or obese.
Jeannine Kayembe, the co-executive director of Philly Urban Creators, said there aren’t a lot of places in the area to purchase fresh produce, like farmers markets or even grocery stores.
“Just the fact that this food is even growing here is one step in [the] right direction,” she told The Huffington Post’s Alyona Minkovski. “We want to teach folks, we want folks to be able to grow their own food.”
Devon Bailey, the site and development manager for the organization, spent a lot of his early life in the neighborhood and says there was “nothing like this” available when he was growing up. Bailey, a self-described “ex-corner boy who used to do dirt and sell drugs,” is now using his street smarts in a new way at the farm.
“I just took what I’ve already learned in the street and I just applied it to something completely different,” he said. “And it doesn’t matter, because that education that you learn on the street ― you can apply it to any aspect of life, or whatever business that you’re trying to run.”
The organization also welcomes formerly incarcerated folks, like Stanley Morgan, who spent five years in prison and has been working at the urban farm for the past three months. Morgan said tending to the crops has been a “life-changing” experience and given him a new outlook on life.
Kayembe said the farm provides a way to advance social change and tackle important issues that plague urban communities, beyond just the problem of accessibility to fresh food.
“All the work that we do here, because it’s making a social impact, makes it very political, right?” she said. “All these issues as far as educational funding, that’s us. All these issues as far as mass incarceration and young people not being treated well in these spaces, like ― those are our young people. So even though we are not the politicians that are working with those people, we are still working in that work, even with just the farm.”
Check out the video above to hear more about Philly Urban Creators’ work in the community.
This video was produced by Liz Martinez and Alyona Minkovski, edited by Terence Krey and shot by William DeJessa and Brian Bentz.