Pew Center for Arts and Heritage

Get our monthly newsletter in your inbox for the latest on cultural events, ideas, conversations, and grantmaking news in Philadelphia and beyond.

Main page contents

Questions of Practice: Farm for the City Participants on What Urban Farming Can Do for a Community

Close Transcript
Transcript permalink

I think that the work initiated should absolutely do what Stan said, which is invite people into the conversation despite how they identify. And after engaging, they walk away feeling like they, too, are a creator, a designer, and maker, and artist.

I think that in the art industry, it's very similar to what we're looking at in the urban ag industry. And it's about access and about communities that really are doing amazing, distinctive forms of expression, who are actually often emulated and their work is replicated and copied all over the world-- are left out of being able to call themselves artists, because there is this sense of hierarchy.

And so I love doing public work. I love doing work that's a little messy.


I appreciate process and conversation that can sometimes be beautiful, can sometimes be really uncomfortable and ugly. But that it absolutely will hold a mirror to each one of us about how dynamic we are and also how we may contribute to the issues that we're trying to address in the work.

Our guests have really felt kind of an ownership over this idea that they're getting to pick what the produce is. And so at first, they were like, when are you using it? When are you using it?

And then when it started to come in, and we're using a lot more collard greens and we used to, or we're using a lot more beets, or Swiss chard, or carrots. I've had a few guests come up to me and be like, is this what I asked for? And it's like, yeah, this is exactly what you asked for.

And they've been really excited about that. And it's really great to just see these people who are really struggling, really vulnerable, but having like a sense of pride in getting to talk to someone about like, here's something I want, and then we're delivering on that promise of, we're going to throw this for you.

As a black farmer who's been in the work for a few years, when it comes to growing food and creating inclusive access to people that look like me and people that don't have as much access to green spaces, healthy food, nutritional foods, I'm used to working in a certain way.

I don't really get to get engaged to housing insecure folks at the farm that I normally work at. So being directly in contact with that community and understanding their struggles and empathizing with them on site and just allowing them to feel like someone actually cares and will work with them to figure some things out was very new to me.

And that taught me that all that I thought I knew about urban farming is not it. Like, this is also a part of urban farming, being that resource in the community to everyone, not just the folks that I'm normally used to dealing with. So that taught me a lot.

In the summer of 2018, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s (PHS) Farm for the City: Growing for Greater Good transformed center city Philadelphia’s Thomas Paine Plaza into a temporary “farm-as-art installation.” Gardening workshops, large-scale community dinners, poetry and storytelling performances, and interactive panel discussions encouraged public conversations about the role of urban agriculture in strengthening communities and created a sense of ownership in the garden’s output. Over the course of four months, the farm’s raised bed gardens grew more than 1,200 pounds of produce, which was donated to Broad Street Ministry, a nearby community service organization dedicated to serving the homeless.

In these interviews, Farm for the City program curator Charlyn Griffith, farmer Stan Morgan, and Broad Street Ministry chef Stephen Shillingford discuss how food access can revitalize a community and the connections among art, agriculture, and creativity.

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society is a nonprofit membership organization that connects people to horticulture to create beautiful, healthy, sustainable communities, offering programs and events for gardeners of all levels and working with volunteers, organizations, agencies, and businesses to create and maintain vibrant green spaces. In 2017, PHS received a Center Project grant to create Farm for the City: Growing for Greater Good.