Understanding Urban Agriculture and the Food System in the Philadelphia Area: A Field Trip

Understanding Urban Agriculture and the Food System in the Philadelphia Area: A Field Trip

Over time, people who work in urban agriculture have articulated three major purposes for urban agriculture: community development, entrepreneurship, and job training.  This field trip included two stops with three examples in northwestern Philadelphia: a community garden run by Weaver’s Way just across from Saul High School and a very large community garden overseen by the Schuylkill Center.  We also saw the new livestock facility at Saul.  These two stops illustrate the three major reasons for urban agriculture in Philadelphia: community development, education, and entrepreneurship.

At the Schuylkill Center, Dr. Scott Sheely, new President of the Society, shared some of the finding of his work as the coordinator of the Urban Agriculture Initiative of the PA Department of Agriculture.  Steve Goin, Director of Land and Facilities, folloowed and talked about the mission of the Center and how the community garden fits into it.  We drove to the garden site for an orientation and an opportunity to talk with several gardeners amidst a moderate rain shower.  Gardeners there raise food for their own families, use it to supply small businesses that they operate, and as a place to do training for people with disabilities.

A short drive down Henry Ave. took us to Weaver’s Way Coop and W.B. Saul High School.  After a great lunch provided by Weaver’s Way Catering (huddled under a tent with some more rain happening), we met Nina Berry who runs the Henry Got Crops farm for Weaver’s Way.  Nina explained that the farm concentrates on providing produce for shares to a weekly coop program in addition to a farm store that offers produce and other farm products.  It is a project of Weavers Way Co-op, Food Moxie, W.B. Saul Agricultural High School and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation.  Principal Alexa Dunn provided an overview of what has been happening at Saul, particularly over the last year when the pandemic made things difficult.

With the rain coming to an end, we visited the new Animal Agriculture building on the Saul campus and walked through the gardens at Henry Got Crops, noting the mulch shredder that was donated by PSPA several years ago.

Overall, even though it rained periodically, the 25+ members and guests who attended had a good time and learned quite a bit about urban agriculture in Philadelphia



Founded in 1965, the Schuylkill Center is one of the first urban environmental education centers in the country, with 340 acres of fields, forests, ponds, and streams in northwest Philadelphia. We work through four core program areas: environmental education, environmental art, land stewardship, and wildlife rehabilitation.

For nearly fifty years, our community gardens have offered an escape from the chaos of city life. During the height of the growing season, one can get lost amid towering yellow corn, bright red heirloom tomatoes, meandering flower beds, sprawling pumpkin patches, and much more. Nestled in Upper Roxborough, our gardens are surrounded by serene farmland and scenic views. As one of Philadelphia’s largest community gardens, we offer large garden plots and always have space for new gardeners.

Henry Got Crops Farm at Saul High School is a collaboration of Weavers Way Co-op, Food Moxie, W.B. Saul Agricultural High School and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation.  It is located at 7095 Henry Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19128.

The farm is on the grounds of W.B Saul High School in Roxborough, on land owned by Philadelphia Parks and Recreation on the edge of Wissahickon Park. Henry Got Crops emerged in 2009 from an existing partnership between the Co-op and the high school. Saul students are involved with every aspect of the farm, from hands-on fieldwork to newsletter writing, applied research and summer internships.

W.B. Saul High School is a magnet high school in Roxborough, Philadelphia. The school, a part of the School District of Philadelphia, serves grades 9 through 12. Saul is a magnet school in the agricultural fields. The 130-acre campus is on the Wissahickon Valley in upper Roxborough, Philadelphia, adjacent to Fairmount Park. The campus is located on both sides of Henry Avenue. One side houses the academic, agricultural, and physical education/health buildings as well as the greenhouses and small animal laboratory buildings. The portion on the other side of Henry Avenue houses the school’s field crop area, nursery, pasture area for livestock, and working farm.

Saul is the largest agricultural farm school in the United States. The school has the largest FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America) chapter in the State of Pennsylvania and one of the largest in the United States. Saul has two farmers as staff members.

The Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture is America’s oldest continually operating society to promote agricultural innovation. This organization promotes progressive, productive and sustainable agriculture through monthly online presentations, luncheon meetings and field trips to farms, universities and research institutions. The membership includes large and small farmers, government and academic staff and ag-related businesses.

Visit our website at http://pspaonline.com/