Northwest: Teens 4 Good Program Empowers Youth Through An Urban Farm

Teenagers have taken the lead of a half-acre urban farm at the Schuylkill Center, in Northwest Philadelphia, to provide the community with fresh food.

Teens 4 Good is an Environmental Education program empowering youth and teaching them traditional farming, how to maintain a business and where their food comes from. w=500 h=281]

Run by the North Light Community Center, the Teens 4 Good program sends students and volunteers out to the farm.

“We will have about six to eight students out here in the summer,” said Billy Eisenberg, the director of education and teen services at North Light Community Center. “They will be working for six weeks, 17 hours a week.”

Corrie Spellman, right, is taking care of the plants in the greenhouse while she teaches one of her student to do the same
Corrie Spellman, right, took care of the plants in the greenhouse while one of her students, left, watered them

The farm is a Community Supported Agriculture project. It supports the farmers by allowing them to sell affordable, fresh food directly to the community.

Corrie Spellman, the farm manager, explained that people buy shares of the farm and get products in exchange.

“They pay $400 before the season begins and then in return, for six months every week, they get a share of the harvest,” said Spellman. “We try to make it a nice variety so that it’s not the same every week.”

People come pick up a bag of food every week. This past week, the bag included green beans and lettuce among other fresh vegetables
People come pick up a bag of food every week. This past week, the bag included Sugar Snap Peas and lettuce among other fresh vegetables

The pick up process happens on Tuesdays and Thursdays at two different locations.

Margaret Janz bought shares for this season. She comes to pick up her food on Tuesdays at the North Light Community Center.

“It’s based on an honor system,” explained Janz about the pick up process. “Every week, we come and put our name on the sheet and pick up a bag of food.”

Even though paying upfront helps Spellman determine how many people she is harvesting for, there is sometimes extra food.

Margaret Janz is filling her bag with fresh vegetables
Margaret Janz filled her bag with one pint of sugar snap peas, one small bunch of kale, two heads of lettuce, one bunch of Hokurei Turnips, one bunch of purplette bunching Onions, one head of raddichio and one bunch of dill

According to the North Light Community Center annual report of 2010-2011, Teens 4 Good harvested more than 3,500 pounds of produce in one growing season,

“It’s very motivating to already have sold the food and [knowing] there’s people hungry and ready and wanting to eat the food,” said Spellman. “If there is extra food, I donate it to community food cupboards.”

– Text, video and images by Alison Vayne.

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