City farmers get big boost from Harrisburg

A garden at 22nd Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue.
Photo credit Paul Kurtz/KYW Newsradio
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Pennsylvania Farm Bill that Gov. Tom Wolf signed this week includes funding, for the first time, to support urban agriculture, which is booming in Philadelphia.   

"Right now, we've got growing collards and cabbage, lettuce and spinach, we've got Swiss chard, broccoli, lots of different herbs, carrots," said Master Gardener Andrea Vettori, who was describing the bumper crop of spring veggies she's grown in raised beds on an abandoned lot at 22nd Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue.

It's one of the poorest neighborhoods in Philadelphia, which is why Vettori chose to plant roots there.  

This is one of three plots that Vettori and her staff cultivate with help from the community.  

She says collaboration is really important.

"We have next to no theft, next to no vandalism. The community members watch over it. I get calls from neighbors if there's something awry. So they really take ownership and that's what we're looking for," Vettori said. 

There are now close to 500 community gardens in Philly. 

But Justin Trezza of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society says about half of them could be shut down at a moments notice. 

"Typically, these gardens are being established on what was once vacant property. They might not have leases just yet to those sites, so what happens through development, through sheriff's sales, those gardens are being lost," Trezza explained. 

The Farm Bill provides half a million dollars in funding to help Philadelphia and other cities address that and other issues.

The Kenny administration has also ramped up support by hiring its first-ever urban agriculture director, Ashley Richards.