Kensington's La Finquita is the little farm that could

For dec­ades, loc­als have ten­ded to Kens­ing­ton’s La Fin­quita, “the little farm.” Now, a new gen­er­a­tion of urb­an garden­ers has taken to caring for the com­munity farm.

In Kens­ing­ton, in the shad­ow of an aban­doned fact­ory – one that has sat for so long, its “For Sale” sign is rus­ted and covered in graf­fiti – the lush, green plants of La Fin­quita com­munity garden spread their leaves in the sun.

For dec­ades, loc­al res­id­ents have cared for this quarter-acre com­munity farm – La Fin­quita is Span­ish for “the little farm” – at the in­ter­sec­tion of Mas­ter and Lawrence streets.

But a few years back, as the ori­gin­al tenders of the com­munity garden be­came too old to mind the garden reg­u­larly, a new crop of young­er loc­als have taken to caring for it.

“This soil has been worked for thirty years, it’s great,” said a smil­ing Cliff Brown, one of the new com­munity garden­ers who tend the urb­an garden.

Brown said that as a loc­al res­id­ent, last year he learned of the garden, but no­ticed that it could use some work. Dur­ing an in­ter­view held on a sunny Sunday af­ter­noon June 24, he said the garden was ini­tially star­ted in the early 1980s by the Cath­ol­ic Work­ers Move­ment, who have a build­ing near by.

The land is owned by Pyr­am­id Tire and Rub­ber Com­pany, which owes nearly $47,000 in real es­tate taxes on the prop­erty and hasn’t paid its prop­erty taxes since 1978.

Brown said that neigh­bor­hood res­id­ents joined the ef­fort for many years, but re­cently, as some have moved away and oth­ers have aged or passed on, tend­ing the garden had mostly fallen onto the shoulders of Danny Rodrig­uez.

Rodrig­uez, in his eighties, is get­ting too old to tend the farm reg­u­larly, and he said that he couldn’t be hap­pi­er that the young­er res­id­ents took up the work at the farm.

“You know what, I just love it,” said Rodrig­uez from his home on Lawrence Street, where he keeps his own garden full of col­or­ful plants and flowers. “I have spent a lot of time there all by my­self.”

Rodrig­uez said that he star­ted tend­ing the garden after his son passed away. His son, he said, en­joyed work­ing at the garden and after the Cath­ol­ic Work­ers stopped tend­ing the spot about 15 years ago, Rodrig­uez took it on.

“Ain’t nobody else that was go­ing to do it, you know,” he said with a laugh.

When Brown, along with his friends Zach Prazak and Kim Gi­an­none, began to tend the garden, they had their work cut out for them. Since only Rodrig­uez and a few res­id­ents had been work­ing the garden, it was over­grown and a corner of it was full of trash.

Prazak said they cut down trees, in­stalled a brick patio and grew the cul­tivat­able area in the garden by an ex­tra 50 per­cent.

“People ap­pre­ci­ate it,” said Prazak. “They like that it’s not a va­cant lot at least. If noth­ing else, they come by and say, ‘hey kids, isn’t that nice?’”

Now La Fin­quita of­fers about 19 plots for garden­ing, with about 35 loc­als in­volved with their own gar­dens.

And on Sundays, from 10 a.m. un­til 2 p.m., - for the first time in La Fin­quita’s his­tory – the farm now of­fers a farm stand, where the com­munity garden­ers sell the fruits (and ve­get­ables) of their labor.

After be­ing ten­ded for so many years, Gi­an­none said that the soil is hearty and the garden­ers, through some work, were able to grow and har­vest corn in­cred­ibly early in the sea­son.

“I’d say we were prob­ably the first in the state to have corn,” she said proudly.

“A lot of people told me it was the best corn they ever had,” agreed Brown.

The farm also of­fers arug­ula, kale, salad greens, mus­tard greens, purslane, car­rots and more.

Gi­an­none said the friends would also like to cre­ate a re­cipe book for loc­als.

“We’d like to do a cook­book, so people know how to cook what we grow,” she said.

Mostly though, Brown said the most pos­it­ive as­pect of the garden has been com­munity in­volve­ment. Loc­al res­id­ents, he said, are al­ways in­ter­ested in what’s go­ing on at La Fin­quita and the friends are ex­cited to bring life – and healthy food op­tions – to the com­munity.

“This is just our first year, so we have more to do,” said Brown. “I think this shows how we’re see­ing an in­creased in­terest in the loc­al pro­duc­tion of food… Every­one has been in­ter­ested in what’s been go­ing on.”

Star Staff Re­port­er Hay­den Mit­man can be con­tac­ted at 215-354-3124 or hmit­

Help sup­port “The Little Farm”

The South Kens­ing­ton Com­munity Part­ners are work­ing on ob­tain­ing a grant to sup­port La Fin­quita. The com­munity group has a net­work of com­munity gar­dens in the neigh­bor­hood - La Fin­quita, Co­hock­sink, and Till­mon – and they are up for a $15,000 grant from Nature’s Path Or­gan­ic Food called Gar­dens for Good.  

The money would be used for in­fra­struc­tur­al sup­port, pro­grams for youth and ad­oles­cents, and neigh­bor­hood-wide work­shops and events.

This will be es­pe­cially help­ful to La Fin­quita, as the farm has lost tools to burg­lary re­cently.

It is a vote-based grant, and neigh­bors can vote un­til June 30.

To vote go to ht­tps://apps.face­­dens­for­good­grants

To fol­low La Fin­quita, or for more in­form­a­tion, “like” on face­book: www.face­­quitask, email nschaum­burg@southkens­ing­ton­com­, or call 215-427-3463. To read an in­ter­view with La Fin­quita mem­bers, please vis­it www.southkens­ing­ton­com­

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