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.