In West Philadelphia, Urban Tree Connection partners directly with community members to reclaim vacant land and convert it into welcoming public spaces that bring people together. Our accomplishments include the development of a 3/4 acre urban farm plus additional spaces for growing edible crops, two community gardens, and three perennial gardens that beautify the streetscape.
At Urban Tree Connection, we see these physical transformations as a platform for delivering programs that enrich the lives of low-income West Philadelphians. Our programs provide youth and adults with the leadership skills necessary to build safe and healthy communities through popular education and urban farming. We provide resources and support for residents in West Philadelphia to work together to make healthy, local food accessible in their neighborhoods, as well as to promote social and economic justice.
We offer farming, arts, health, and wellness programming for residents of all ages. This includes experiential education afterschool programs for children ages 5 - 13 at three community garden sites; a summer job training and leadership program for teens ages 14 - 18 at urban farming sites, markets, and community gardens, with spring and fall apprenticeship positions; and a leadership training program, community classes, garden plots, and other educational and community involvement activities for adults.
Our current menu of programs includes:
Children build their self-confidence, imagination, and cooperation skills through gardening and arts activities. The Sprouts meet on weekday afternoons between April 1 and November 1 at the Pearl-Conestoga Gardens (Conestoga Way & Vine Street) and at the Memorial Garden (54th Street and Wyalusing Avenue).
Pre-teens develop leadership skills through growing, harvesting, and distributing their own fruits and vegetables to neighbors. The Veggie Kids meet on weekday afternoons between April 1 and November 1 at the Pearl-Conestoga Gardens (Conestoga Way & Vine Street) and at the Memorial Garden (54th Street and Wyalusing Avenue).
In this 10-month program, high school-aged youth cultivate leadership skills in farming, landscaping, marketing, and nutrition through paid apprenticeships with UTC. Teen apprentices have the opportunity to work closely with UTC staff, who serve as mentors and role models for these aspiring future community leaders.
Community members can sign up for garden plots, where they can grow their own fruits, vegetables, and flowers. In addition, adults can help out on the farm each week in exchange for free fruits and vegetables.
From May through November, community members run a Farmers Market on Saturdays from 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM near Urban Tree Connection's 3/4 acre Neighborhood Foods Farm (53rd Street and Wyalusing Avenue). Residents can purchase fresh, locally-grown produce at inexpensive prices.
On the third Thursday of every month, from 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM, Urban Tree Connection offers free health, wellness, and arts workshops for adults. Recent topics have included soap making, therapeutic massage, growing kitchen gardens, and canning fruits and vegetables. Look for flyers with information on upcoming classes. Childcare is provided as needed.
In 2010, Urban Tree Connection became the legal conservator of this long- abandoned 3/4 acre property on the 600 Block of North 53rd Street, which had been home to a construction company for many years. After significant remediation and clean-up, Urban Tree Connection has developed a fully-functioning farm that grows sustainably cultivated produce to address access to healthful food for the residents of Haddington.
Produce from this farm flows into our subsidized Community Farmers Market and is also sold at farmers markets around the city, including Rittenhouse Square (18th and Walnut - Saturdays from 9:00 AM - 3:00 PM) and Drexel (3200 Block of Chestnut Street - Tuesdays from 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM). We also sell some produce at the Eastside Market in Lancaster, PA (Musser Park - Sundays from 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM). Revenue from these markets helps to sustain the Neighborhood Foods Farm.
Our main farm site is supplemented by smaller plots, including a raised-bed garden annex on the 5300 Block of Wyalusing Avenue, high tunnels on the grounds of Ward AME Church (43rd Street and Aspen Street), and a garden at First African Presbyterian Church (42nd Street & Girard Avenue). Together with the Farm, these sites comprise a growing neighborhood food system, which we hope to continue expanding. The various sites also provide a living classroom for the diverse array of youth and adult community programs described above.
UTC’s three community perennial gardens were constructed both to displace drug houses that block captains had removed, and to give seniors a comfortable place to sit and enjoy the outdoors in a safe and secure environment: