Northeast Times

Bridesburg farm share plans take root

Com­munity sup­por­ted ag­ri­cul­ture might be on its way to the neigh­bor­hood.

  • People enjoy the offerings of a Farm to City farm stand. COURTESY OF FARM TO CITY

  • The offerings of a Common Market/Farm to City CSA box. COURTESY OF FARM TO CITY

An idea for the use of a va­cant lot in Brides­burg has set in mo­tion plans to bring a com­munity sup­por­ted ag­ri­cul­ture (CSA) farm share or a farm­ers’ mar­ket to the neigh­bor­hood.

Adam Vis­con­to, a Brides­burg par­ent, spurred com­munity con­ver­sa­tion on Face­book about the po­ten­tial for the neigh­bor­hood to have ac­cess to more fresh, loc­al food. Some people made com­ments wel­com­ing the idea, while oth­ers wer­en’t sure it would work.

Vis­con­to said he took one look at a va­cant lot on Le­fevre Street back in Septem­ber and star­ted for­mu­lat­ing a plan with oth­er neigh­bors.

“We wanted to turn it in­to a com­munity garden,” Vis­con­to said. “We’re still in the pro­cess of do­ing that [via Act 135, a law that al­lows private parties to take over blighted prop­erty], and we could get that lot.”

But from that ini­tial idea came a dis­cus­sion in Oc­to­ber about a farm­ers’ mar­ket in Brides­burg, Vis­con­to said.He reached out to the of­fice of City Coun­cil­man Bobby Hen­on (D-6th dist), who rep­res­ents Brides­burg.

The coun­cil­man had hos­ted Fall Fest in Septem­ber of last year, where Farm to City — which runs farm­ers’ mar­kets and CSAs all over the city — had sponsored a small pro­duce stand. Hen­on him­self helped pre­pare food at Fall Fest.

“As far as its im­port­ance to the neigh­bor­hood, the coun­cil­man def­in­itely sup­ports ac­cess to fresh, loc­al, healthy food,” said Eric Hor­vath, dir­ect­or of com­mu­nic­a­tions for Hen­on’s of­fice, in an email. “That needs to be bal­anced with the idea that the com­munity can sus­tain a mar­ket eco­nom­ic­ally and that the de­mand ex­ists to sup­port the mar­ket.”

It’s more likely that a CSA could ex­ist in the short-term. A CSA works by en­abling con­sumers to buy sea­son­al food dir­ectly from loc­al grow­ers and farm­ers. The farm­ers of­fer a num­ber of “shares” to buy­ers; a share is typ­ic­ally a box of ve­get­ables that buy­ers re­ceive each week, or every oth­er week. The cus­tom­er pays up front for the sea­son.

“The mar­ket it­self prob­ably won’t hap­pen at that va­cant lot,” Vis­con­to said. “We don’t want to jump right in­to a farm­ers’ mar­ket, we want to start small, ‘plant the seed,’ no pun in­ten­ded.”

A CSA farm share, though, could hap­pen soon­er — it just needs a “host site,” a pickup point for its cus­tom­ers.

Vis­con­to said he’s in the pro­cess of ask­ing around the neigh­bor­hood, to the Brides­burg Re­cre­ation Cen­ter, the Brides­burg Boys & Girls Club or the Brides­burg Food Pantry.

Bob Pier­son, founder and dir­ect­or of Farm to City, told Star in a phone in­ter­view last week that three years ago, food dis­trib­ut­or Com­mon Mar­ket, in a part­ner­ship with Farm to City, star­ted the Delaware Val­ley Farm Share, a CSA avail­able to busi­nesses and of­fice work­ers. DVFS has close to 1,000 mem­bers cur­rently.

At Hen­on’s Fall Fest, Farm to City made avail­able Com­mon  Mar­ket’s food — that’s the food that Brides­burg res­id­ents would get if the CSA happened in the neigh­bor­hood.

“We’re very in­ter­ested in help­ing [Com­mon Mar­ket] get their food in­to neigh­bor­hoods,” Pier­son said. “We iden­ti­fied [Brides­burg’s] need, we’re try­ing to cre­ate a food pro­gram tailored to that neigh­bor­hood.”

The CSA pro­gram — and fur­ther, the pos­sible farm­ers’ mar­ket — are very much in the pre­lim­in­ary stages, and con­ver­sa­tions with po­ten­tial CSA pickup points, as well as com­munity mem­bers, still need to hap­pen.

“We’re now try­ing to do a deep­er brain­storm of how we can pull this off in Brides­burg,” Pier­son said. “We want to cre­ate an aware­ness among people who might not know the be­ne­fits of fresh food in their di­ets.”  

Vis­con­to and Hor­vath both said there is a com­munity meet­ing about the pro­ject com­ing in late Janu­ary in Brides­burg.  

“The only thing we can do is try,” Vis­con­to con­tin­ued. “If it doesn’t work, we say ‘OK, we gave it our best ef­fort.’” We need to do pro­gress­ive things. This is a good way to bring people to­geth­er.”

You can reach at mjamison@bsmphilly.com.

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