Soul to Soil

Philadelphia’s urban farms and gardens grow food, flowers, and community. 

Spring is in the air! What a great time for gardens, especially in Northwest Philly. While Chestnut Hill likes to call itself the city’s “Garden District,” it’s easy to have an enviable tree canopy when part of your neighborhood includes Wissahickon park. You might be surprised to learn that both East Falls and Germantown also boast an impressive amount of green space with many yards, parks, and tree-lined streets.

Urban farms? Look no further. You’ll find them all over this part of the city. At historic properties like Grumblethorpe, Wyck House and Awbury Arboretum; in community initiatives like Church Lane, Hansberry Gardens and Old Tennis Court Farm. Even private ventures like Germantown Kitchen Garden and Weavers Way — and let’s not forget PhillyForests, who runs the Germantown Farmers Market (starting May 13th!)

It’s doubtful any Germantowners would be surprised to learn that Philly’s beloved urban agriculture project, FarmerJawn, started right here in a 4’ x 6’ backyard greenhouse. Founder Christa Barfield was inspired by the spirit of community she witnessed in the small farms and gardens she saw while traveling the Caribbean, and set to working on her own homegrown spin.

After taking root in 2018, FarmerJawn has continued to grow into new spaces, and through new partnerships with local schools, non-profits, and small businesses. Today, FarmerJawn is a model for regenerative farming and food justice advocacy. FarmerJawn also sells tea, honey, merch, plus they run a community-supported CSA with locations in Philly, Elkins Park, and even Chester County.

FarmerJawn’s latest undertaking is a community garden in Kensington with an innovative twist: it’ll anchor an industrial space for minority-owned food businesses at Jasper House, a new artist/commercial/residential building model seeking to establish new standards for equitable development. Farming is a natural foundation for the strong BIPOC-centered hub Jasper House seeks to create through reduced rents and special opportunities that, ultimately, will enrich the environment for all.

IN HER OWN WORDS — FarmerJawn’s Christa Barfield:

I realize that, especially as a Black woman, my goal is to introduce more Black people to careers in food, whether that be through agriculture and teaching them how to farm or through helping them create a product that is agriculturally-based. And so finding a new person to be a part of the Jasper house space won’t be as difficult when we are giving opportunities for people who never even imagined themselves to be food artisans. I’m looking forward to this next generation of food artisans in Philadelphia!

I feel like I’m on the edge of like greatness. Let’s go! We can get Black people back to being in dirt, without the stigma, without the trauma attached to it. And just taking back the land. In a sense “taking back the land” really means just feeling comfortable being in this kind of space. Everyone can share the land, but this is about Black people being comfortable with that. This coming year, I’ve got some plans to do something really dope for the city.

Learn more: &

Farmer Jawn Greenery & Viva Leaf Tea Company
6730 Germantown Ave, 19119

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