Changes cropping up at Emerald Street Community Farm

Thanks to a successful fundraiser and volunteers, new fixtures will be added to the farm this growing season

A decade of urban farming: Emerald Street Community Farm is entering its 10th growing season and thanks to donations, will install a new fence. PHOTO COURTESY EMERALD STREET COMMUNITY FARM

By Melissa Komar

Fruits, vegetables and herbs won’t be the only thing springing up at Emerald Street Community Farm this spring.

Thanks to a successful GoFundMe campaign, a new fence will be installed around the perimeter of the urban farm in Kensington.

Founder Elisa Esposito created a GoFundMe with a $4,000 goal on Feb. 16 to replace the chain link fence that surrounds the farm with a fence that provides better visibility and is not conducive to weeds growing.

Entering its 10th growing season, the farm is “a grassroots community project” run by volunteers, according to Esposito, who is also the manager at the farm, along with husband Nic Esposito.

Esposito bought her house 10 years ago and there was a space of five vacant lots next to her at Emerald and Dauphin streets.

Joined by neighbor Patrick Dunn and several others, the group “cleaned it up and started growing food together.”

What sets it apart from a community garden is its collective nature: instead of renting out plots each season, the neighbors all grow together.

“We can actually grow more food because we are better utilizing the space and it’s not putting pressing on any one individual so it’s not up to them if the farm lives or dies.”

Growing food together means sharing the harvest, but the abundance means sharing goes beyond those who volunteer.

“We give away the food to anyone who walks by the farm or neighbors and we give a lot of our surplus food to St. Francis Inn.”

Growing all the food and maintaining the farm come at a cost.

The farm received an activities fund grant from Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez and the East Kensington Neighbors Association green spaces committee is covering some of the cost of the upcoming sidewalk repair in front of the farm.

The farm also receives support from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society because it is a City Harvest partner. This includes harvesting equipment and seeds.

“We wouldn’t be able to grow and do everything we’ve done without that constant support over the years,” Esposito said.

Volunteers have also relied on donations from different events over the years, including a farm-themed block party, hoedown, music nights and movie night.

“We don’t charge a fee for any of the events, but we’ll send around a donation jar and if people want to donate they can.” Esposito said.

And, donate they did.

The GoFundMe campaign for the fence was funded within the past week and people are still donating.

“We’ve always benefited from having the fence around the space, however, growing there all these years, there have been many invasive vines and weeds that have been aggressively growing on the fence which takes away from the sight lines of the farm, so it’s hard to see in and out,” Esposito said. “We do spend countless hours every summer picking all the vines off the fence and used countless weed trimmers along the bottom.”

With the sidewalk repairs planned for this season thanks to EKNA, replacing the fence seemed like “the finishing touch on the farm.”

The fence will be aluminum and instead of intersecting wires, it will be vertical bars and there will be space between the ground and where it starts.

“It will be easier to maintain, it will be easier to see the sight line and it’s just going to make the farm feel more welcoming and a place where people can really see what’s going on,” Esposito said. “In the heat of the summer, I see people on their tiptoes trying to see what’s going on in the farm and that’s not going to be a problem anymore.”

In addition to the sidewalk repairs and a new fence, a friend of the farm is creating metal bike racks to install outside the farm.

The hope is to have everything complete within the next month, before the growing season starts to avoid any interruptions getting all the plants in the ground.

For Esposito, the successful GoFundMe is a testament to what the farm has worked to achieve: providing a space to engage the community.

“We haven’t really asked for money from the community over the years because we’ve been so well supported by PHS and City Harvest, our councilwoman, and our neighbor association, and we really want the farm to be free and open to anyone who wants to engage and we never want money to be a barrier,” Esposito said. “In many ways, this was the first time we went back to our community and said, ‘Could you help with the farm,’ and it just goes to show people were happy to help and wanted to give. And that felt really good that it seemed to be so well supported.”

Emerald Street Community Farm, Emerald and Dauphin streets, will hold workdays on Saturdays, MArch 17 and 31, from 1 to 4 p.m. Volunteers will prep beds, clean the pavilion, replace compost shed roof and plant spring crops. Weekly farm days, from 5 p.m. to sundown will be held every Monday, from April to October. Monthly Saturday farm days will begin on April 28. All are welcome. In March we are going to have 2 Saturday Workdays –

To donate to GoFundMe for the fence at Emerald Street Community Farm, visit gofundme.com/ESCFFence. For updates on the farm or to volunteer, visit Emerald Street Community Farm on Facebook or email esufproject@gmail.com.