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.”