SEPTA helps community farm grow

Posted on August 15, 2012 by Heather Redfern - Also by this author

Many Philadelphians are enjoying delicious vegetables grown on a SEPTA lot, next to the Market-Frankford Line station.
Many Philadelphians are enjoying delicious vegetables grown on a SEPTA lot, next to the Market-Frankford Line station.

A fresh salad with leafy greens, juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumbers and zucchini is a refreshing meal for a hot summer day. Would you believe that many Philadelphians are enjoying delicious vegetables grown on a Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) lot, next to the Market-Frankford Line (MFL) station?

The Walnut Hill Community Farm at 46th and Market Streets is marking its second season. Operated by The Enterprise Center Community Development Corp. (TEC-CDC), the farm is adjacent to the 46th Street MFL station, in a lot used by SEPTA during the extensive “El” reconstruction project in West Philadelphia. When the renovations were completed in 2009, SEPTA was left with a vacant plot of land and looking for a way to turn the location to a community asset.

Enter CDC, whose leadership was developing a plan to teach the neighborhood’s residents about sustainable food production. With the SEPTA lot available, CDC would be able to give residents a “hands-on” learning experience at the farm.

In May 2010, the agency and CDC signed a lease for the land — for $1 a year — for up to 30 years. “SEPTA is a committed stakeholder in the City of Philadelphia’s Greenworks goal to bring fresh food to its residents through a formal goal established in the organization’s Sustainability Program Plan,” said Marion Coker, SEPTA’s manager of strategic business planning and sustainability. “Our collaboration with the Walnut Hill Community Farm is based on a mutual understanding that improved access to food and transit contributes to the development of vibrant and healthy communities.”

The Walnut Hill Community Farm at 46th and Market Streets is marking its second season. It is operated by The Enterprise Center Community Development Corp., which was able to hire 10 teens this year for its food ambassadors program.
The Walnut Hill Community Farm at 46th and Market Streets is marking its second season. It is operated by The Enterprise Center Community Development Corp., which was able to hire 10 teens this year for its food ambassadors program.

In two years, the farm has grown, literally and figuratively. “Last year, we harvested about 650 pounds of food,” said Allison Blansfield, CDC’s farm and youth program manager. “This year, we should double our production. We were also able to hire 10 teens this year for our food ambassadors program, an increase over the four we had last year.”

The kids who work on the farm bring their produce to SEPTA headquarters via its Market-Frankford Line.
The kids who work on the farm bring their produce to SEPTA headquarters via its Market-Frankford Line.

The youths are divided into teams and learn about the farming industry, from planting and harvesting to bringing the food to market and managing sales and other business matters. The Farm’s “Market Team” brings fresh produce to SEPTA’s headquarters every other Wednesday. In true SEPTA fashion, the team travels not by pick-up truck, but on MFL trains, wheeling carts loaded with boxes full of herbs, tomatoes, corn, kale, lettuce, Swiss chard, onions and more through the El station’s turnstiles and onto the train for the 30-plus block trek from West Philly to Center City.

In addition to selling produce to SEPTA’s employees, Walnut Hill Farm also operates a community farm stand at 46th and Market and sold shares of its harvest to neighbors that participate in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. The Farm accepts cash, credit/debit cards, Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT)/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funds (formerly food stamps) and senior subsidies.

To keep Walnut Hill’s crops flourishing, CDC has received the support numerous organizations, including the USDA, for items ranging from soil, seeds, a shed, fruit bushes and orchard trees to construction assistance and volunteers. SEPTA connected its 46th Street Station downspout to the Farm’s rainwater collection cisterns and installed shelving on the side of the station building to hold solar panels that will power the water pump that operates the Farm’s irrigation system (designed by Drexel University Engineering students).

“Walnut Hill Farm is a wonderful example of what can be accomplished when the community, academic institutions and government agencies collaborate,” said Blansfield. “We are grateful to SEPTA for helping us get the project off the ground by leasing the vacant land and for providing their continued support, from offering assistance with the solar panels and irrigation system to allowing us to sell our produce at its headquarters.”    

 “Little did we realize how a vacant parcel of land could be transformed into such a vibrant self-sustaining model for neighborhood transformation,” said Coker. “And the farmers’ market at our 1234 Market Street headquarters has truly brought new meaning to sustainability and the cradle-to-cradle concept — fresh food from repurposed SEPTA land via the SEPTA system to SEPTA employees.”

In case you missed it...

Read our METRO blog, "Are 'Automatics' a part of your bus operator training program?" here.

View comments or post a comment on this story. (0 Comments)

More Transit Dispatches Blog Posts

May 4, 2016

Public Transit Has 'Perks' With Loyalty Programs

The benefits of using public transit are many — environmentally friendly, less stressful than driving and no time wasted sitting in traffic, to name a few. For commuters in cities like Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Montreal, there are even more advantages for using transit — discounts at local businesses for using bus/train/trolley passes.

April 28, 2016

6 Ways High-Speed Rail Will Benefit Texas, Transportation Industry

Ask commuters who drive between Houston and Dallas almost every day and see what they have to say. They are known as “super commuters” – the nearly 50, 000 people traveling back and forth between the two cities at least once a week. That number will increase as the growth in Texas continues to climb. Super commuters and other drivers want another solution to Texas’ traffic-clogged highways. Enter the Texas Central high-speed rail project...

March 30, 2016

Introducing the Next Generation of Engineers, Architects to Careers in Transit

For many college engineering and architecture students, it’s probably a good bet that they have not given much consideration to careers in public transportation. Members of the SEPTA's Engineering, Maintenance and Construction Division have worked closely with Philadelphia-area university students to introduce them to job opportunities in the realm of mass transit.

February 25, 2016

Where are the Super Bowl-esque ads about public transportation?

When it comes to communicating that people have transportation options besides their own drive-alone cars, the transit industry is getting its lunch handed to it, and has been for decades. It must face that it’s a fringe player that wants to become mainstream. And it’s not getting any easier. While we hear so many great stories about options presented by bikeshare systems and technology and Uber, the fact remains that people are buying cars more than ever.

February 24, 2016

How a Multifaceted Plan Helped SEPTA Weather Jonas

Winter Storm Jonas socked Philadelphia with 22.4 inches of snow in January. In some areas of the five-county SEPTA service region, snowfall totals were well over two feet. As a result of forecasted high winds, zero visibility and significant snow, SEPTA suspended service on all modes — with the exception of the Market-Frankford and Broad Street subway-elevated lines, its two busiest routes — beginning at 4 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 23.

See More

Post a Comment

Post Comment

Comments (0)

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher

Automotive Fleet

The Car and truck fleet and leasing management magazine

Business Fleet

managing 10-50 company vehicles

Fleet Financials

Executive vehicle management

Government Fleet

managing public sector vehicles & equipment

TruckingInfo.com

THE COMMERCIAL TRUCK INDUSTRY’S MOST IN-DEPTH INFORMATION SOURCE

Work Truck Magazine

The number 1 resource for vocational truck fleets

Schoolbus Fleet

Serving school transportation professionals in the U.S. and Canada

LCT Magazine

Global Resource For Limousine and Bus Transportation

Please sign in or register to .    Close