Sea Change Urban Horticulture Center: Sustainable Agriculture Initiatives
This project is evaluating a prototype Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operation initiated by Sea Change and staffed by residents of a designated Empowerment Zone in Philadelphia. The project incorporates the experiences of the CSA startup and seeks to expand the CSA, particularly in the specialty-produce and cut-flower markets. The project will also evaluate container growing and the marketing of trees and shrubs in an urban setting.
* To evaluate staff training, production, and farmers market operations for a prototype CSA staffed by inner-city youth.
* To establish a CSA staffed by residents of the Philadelphia Empowerment Zone and expand the area in production, focusing on developing vacant land close to Sea Change.
* To establish and evaluate a specialty herb and produce operation offering organically grown specialty items to urban restaurants and food specialty businesses.
* To expand an existing tree nursery and evaluate over three years the growing of shrubs in this inner city environment.
* To compare urban and suburban production, and to evaluate the effect of urban conditions on food production.
* To establish a large cutting garden at the Urban Horticultural Center, and to train staff in the preparation and marketing of cut flowers produced on site.
* To evaluate three-year outcomes, both horticultural and economic, to support economic development and sustainable agriculture in other urban areas.
In May of 1997 the CSA became a certified organic farm, and 33 families were shareholders. The tree nursery was in place, and local youth were at work on the CSA. But, also in 1997, Sea Change was informed that they must vacate a plot of land in North Philadelphia leased from the Redevelopment Authority because of growing development pressures.
In response to this unexpected development, Sea Change is now exploring the use of two parcels in Roxborough and has negotiated one more year of use on Redevelopment Authority land. There is also garden space at Awbury Arboretum.
During the past year, Sea Change initiated the establishment of the Inner City Growers Association, or ICGA, to support urban farming. Goals for the coming year include recruiting two to six new urban farmers, identifying new potential garden sites, connecting growers to technical assistance, and offering marketing assistance, including potential cooperative sales.
Sea Change has also been selling organic produce to local restaurants. Sea Change enjoys a strong local profile, and the CSA and other projects have been featured extensively in the local press. The role of urban agriculture and horticulture in economic development will continue to be explored and evaluated.
Reported January 1998. 1999 Northeast Region SARE/ACE Report.