Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Growing New Farmers at Henry Got Crops! by: Hannah Slipakoff

Since their inception, the Weavers Way Farms have served as educational growing spaces — training eager apprentices, hosting youth of all ages, and providing member-volunteers with advice and support. This year, Henry Got Crops! is furthering its educational reach by serving as a host site for the Philly Farms Beginner Farmer Training Program. Philly Farms is a new program put together by the Philadelphia Community Farming Collaborative, an alliance of nine organizations focused on food systems change. As a member of PCFC, Weavers Way partners with the Nationalities Services Center (lead organization
for the training program), the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the Urban Nutrition Initiative, East Park Revitalization Alliance, Teens 4 Good, Mill Creek Urban Farm, SHARE Food Program and Preston’s Paradise to address citywide food issues from a comprehensive, interconnected perspective. PCFC’s received a USDA Beginner Farmer Rancher grant last year to establish
the Philly Farms training program, which aims to provide in-depth education, hands-on experience and resources to committed
gardeners. Philly Farms is structured to support lower-income folks in pursuing their vision of growing food for their communities
— providing participants with part-time employment and assistance with long-term business planning.
Beginner Farmer Trainees spend 40 hours a month in intensive workshops and classes focused on farming and business development, engaging in experiential learning by apprenticing on several of Philadelphia’s farms, and going on field trips to conferences and farms in the region. This year’s trainees are an amazing crew of individuals — the group spans many neighborhoods, generations and cultures with a mix of Philadelphia natives and Nepali refugees from Bhutan. Serving as a host site for PCFC’s program, the Henry Got Crops! farm at W.B.
Saul High School in Roxborough serves as a learning lab twice a week. Farmer Nina Berryman provides the trainees with specific tasks in line with monthly/weekly themes, and the crew led by PCFC’s training coordinator approaches the work by examining the intricate processes of growing food from propagation to post-harvest handling. So far this season, the Beginner Farmers have learned the nuances of growing brassica crops during the broccoli
planting marathon of late March, explored many methods and tools for seeding root vegetables in April and bottom-lined the delicate (and sometimes complicated) early summer project of planting, staking and trellising the Henry Got Crops! tomatoes.The trainees are enthusiastic abouttheir time at Saul — grateful for the kindness
and support farm staff offer, whether it’s sharing extra seedlings, assisting with compost delivery or enthusiastically inviting our Nepali friends to harvest their cultural favorite betu (lamb’s quarters) from between the production beds.
As PCFC’s training coordinator and a Weaver’s Way member, I am thrilled to be working with Henry Got Crops! The food justice movement in this city is where I began to come into political and social consciousness, and the community where I developed a deep and abiding love for growing food. In fact, my first
greenhouse seeding session as a 16-year old was with then-Weavers Way Farmer Dave Zelov. I am also thrilled that Henry
Got Crops! joins me in the dream of providing transformative educational experiences to all members of Philadelphia’s
growing community. Next time you visit the farm at Saul, or pick up some HGC produce in Weavers Way stores, extend your thanks to the farm staff and the Beginner Farmer Trainees by acknowledging
the extensive learning, community building and empowerment put into locally grown veggies!
To learn more about the Philly Farms Beginner Farmer Training
Program, contact PCFC Training Coordinator Hannah Slipakoff at

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