There are many facets to our operation. Our staff are divided into those that know about plants and growing and those that know about food and cooking, some that are most familiar with our non profit programming, though we do have our know it alls too. We do our best!
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Q: What is Greensgrow?
A: Greensgrow is a non profit organization that began as an urban farm.
Q: How did Greensgrow get started?
A: Greensgrow was started in 1997 by Mary Seton Corboy and Tom Sereduk as a hydroponic lettuce farm. These days we grow in raised bed high tunnels and do a whole lot more. To get the full story go to the History page.
Q: Where is Greensgrow?
A: Greensgrow Farms is located in Kensington, Philadelphia. Our office is located behind the farm on E. Firth Street. Greensgrow West is in West Philadelphia. For directions and more go to the Locations page.
Q: Can I volunteer here?
A: Yes! To volunteer-please let us know a little about yourself by filling out the Volunteer Form. When we are looking for large amounts of volunteers we post them on the website, in our newsletters and on facebook.
Q: Are you hiring?
A: In general, we hire seasonal help for the farm, CSA and nursery in the late winter/early spring. Other jobs are listed on an as need basis here. We encourage our community to join our newsletter list and to friend us or like us on facebook where we post news alerts like job opportunities.
Q: Where’s the bathroom?
A: We have a composting toilet. It’s groovy!
Q: Are your locations handicapped accessible?
A: Yes. Though we do not have facilities designed specifically for the handicapped, but we welcome many handicapped guests. We do anything we can to help accommodate you navigate the farm whether you are coming for a visit or shopping. The gravel on our pathways may present some mobility issues.
Q: Is it OK if I bring my dog in?
A: Yes, you can bring your well behaved and friendly dog to the farm. Please be aware that there are other animals on the farm. If your dog has any issues getting along with other animals, cats, dogs, pigs, ducks, turtles, children or adults- the farm is not the best place for a visit.
Q: Can I bring in my food scraps for you to compost?
A: No-sorry, we cannot accept your compostables. Consider joining a composting program or getting into vermicomposting.
Q: Do you have a credit card minimum?
A: Yes, we have a $20.00 credit card minimum on the farm.
Q: Why do you have the animals?
A: It wouldn’t be a farm without some critters! Animals are an integral part of a farm and have been so since humans began to cultivate food. Our animals are members of our team, our family and serve an educational purpose in the neighborhood too.
Q: What do you do with your animal’s in the winter?
A: Most of our animals can live outside during the winter months on the farm. Milkshake has a thick layer of fat and buries himself under a bed of hay every night so you can only see the tip of his noise. Ping, the duck, hides under the old branches of our leftover evergreen boughs and tucks his head under his wing. He is able to survive in temperatures 20 degrees below zero. They both get winter time pens in the greenhouse.
Our fish hang out in the deep part of the pound and we run a pump so the pond does not freeze over. The red stripe slider turtles have the good life living in the tropical room inside the greenhouse. The chickens grow a winter coat that keeps them comfortable during the cold winter months. They huddle together in their coop where we have a heat lamp to help keep them warm.
Q: Do you have a pig? What is going to to happen to the pig? Are you going to eat him?
A: Yes, we have a pig named Milkshake, you can visit him when the farm is open. He will grow old and elegant while dabbling in politics.
Q: Is that a turkey?
A: No, it’s a duck!
Q: How many eggs do you get from your chickens? Why can’t we buy them?
During the summer months when the days are longer we get one egg per chicken. In the winter they slow down and we may only get one egg per week due to the shorter days and colder temperatures. We are not able to sell our eggs to the public due to USDA regulations. Our spoiled staff gets to enjoy farm fresh eggs all year long!
Q: Where are your bees?
A: We keep our bees on a lot across from the farm. We have 4-5 hives that live on a green roof. We don’t keep them accessible to the public because they have stingers. But on a sunny day, you will see them gathering pollen from the flowers in the nursery and in our gardens and doing their work inside the high tunnels.
Q: Where does the CSA & Farmstand food come from?
A: Some of it is grown at Greensgrow and we work with our own network of local farmers to provide the food for the CSA and farmstand. Our network of farmers includes a range from generations-old established family farms in South Jersey, to fledgling co-ops of organic farmers in Lancaster County; but we shake hands with all of them and know how they grow.
With about 1/2 acre of growing space we cannot meet the demand ourselves. The majority of the food being growing on the farm is for sale through the farmstand and wholesale to local restaurants. Some of the local restaurants that we sell to include, Standard Tap, Johnny Brenda’s and Prohibition Tap Room, just to name a few.
Q: Is the produce, meat and dairy organic? GMO free?
A: Greensgrow’s mission includes supporting our local food system by working with a breadth of local farmers. In order to get access to a broad spectrum of local foods, we simply cannot limit ourselves to organics. Many farmers use more progressive practices like integrated pest management that are closer to organic than conventional methods, but are just not certified organic. Our produce that we purchase from farmers is GMO free, but our produce is not all organic – some of it is – just ask us, we’ll know.
Meat and cheese at Greensgrow are not generally organic, although we usually have a few organic choices in the mix. We have found our customers prefer a middle price point that is less expensive than organic, but is still inclusive of humanely raised animals with access to pasture. Please feel free to ask us questions about the meats in our freezer when you visit the farmstand.
Q: Is the produce grown at Greensgrow organically grown?
A: Yes-all of the food we grow here is organically grown. We are not certified organic but do not use any chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Our weeds are managed with hand tools or mechanical cultivation as well as with the use of mulches. Pests are managed from a plant based approach and by using IPM (Integrated Pest Management). We use compost to help create healthy soils and plants as well as crop rotation knowing that healthy plants can for the most part take care of themselves. If pests get to a point that require some additional intervention we might spray a few products that are allowed under the USDA Certified Organic Growing Practices. These sprays include soap, pyrethrins, bt, plane water, neem oil, or the most fun thing to use, the flame weeder/pest killer.
Q: Do you sell lemons, limes, bananas, pineapples, etc.?
A: We sell only local produce, so you will not find tropical fruits like citrus, bananas, pineapples here. Greensgrow is dedicated to local farms and building local economies.
Q: When is your farmstand open?
A: The farmstand is open seasonally which means that we have more hours when there is more local produce available. From Mid May–Mid November we have farmstands on Thursdays from 2–7pm and Saturdays from 10am–2pm. During the Winter and early Spring we have farmstands on select Saturdays. Our current hours are posted at the top right of the website and in the Locations & Hours section of the site.
Q: How do I use my Farmers Market Program Checks?
A: Do you have a bunch $5.00 vouchers for farmers markets and you’re not sure how to use them? You’re not the only one! Don’t worry, we make it easy. You can use these vouchers just like any check to buy fresh and nutritious fruits and vegetables. Come to our farmstand, select the fruits and veggies of your choice, and then go to our cashier shed by the exit to pay with your vouchers. Feel free to ask our staff to help you weigh out your veggies before you check out, so you can see how much you are spending as you go. We cannot give change, so make sure you get enough produce to use the full amount. These checks are distributed by the PA Department of Agriculture, so they make the rules; they are good for fruits and vegetables only, we cannot accept them for anything else that we sell at Greensgrow.
Q: Can I use WIC, SNAP, FMNP at Greensgrow? What can I buy with them?
A: We are currently unable to take WIC because of the programs restrictions, but we do accept SNAP and FMNP checks. If you are a SNAP beneficiary please check out our LIFE Program that allows you to buy a weekly produce share with SNAP at a greatly reduced rate from the CSA.
SNAP: According to the USDA you can use SNAP to buy
Households CANNOT use SNAP benefits to buy:
Yes, these are specifically for locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables. Produce only.
Q: Mary, I want to start a farm what do I need?
A: It is difficult to say without knowing where your project stands-do you have the land? is there an infrastructure? do you have any outbuildings? When we started Greensgrow it was a bare city block; no water, electric, gas, sewers– nada. So we needed literally everything. We didn’t have a bathroom for 6 years.
Top 5 things you will need:
1. Space and soil. Land and healthy soil that has been tested and amended to grow in.
2. Tools. Really basic tools but good ones that will last and a way to secure them. We have spent more than 20k over the years replacing lost, stolen and broken tools.
3. Water. It sounds basic, but a solid well-built and designed watering/irrigation system will save you labor, millions of gallons of water and excess sewage over the years.
4. Outbuildings and Zoning. Whether it’s a composting toilet, storage, a simple greenhouse for seed starting, a washing area that is covered with good drainage, sinks that meet sanitary standards for washing food, or a small office on site (some days you HAVE to get out of the sun, cold, rain, snow –I’ve lived it. I know) they need to be zoned. Without zoning you could be shut down at any point and have no legal redress. You may be a non profit, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore zoning laws. Make sure you put them in the right place, no one wants to move a hoophouse twenty times.
5. Cooling. Veggies need ten hours of chilling post harvest to stay healthy and fresh. No farm can be without some kind of fridge. We used a CoolBot 17 years ago and still use one today. It is the best couple hundred bucks we have ever spent.
Q: What motivated you to become involved in urban farming?
A: We were interested in growing food for restaurants and we lived in the city. It morphed into something bigger. We didn’t plan it. Back then urban farming was unheard of.
Q: What is something basic that everyone can do to support local farms?
A: Learn more about seasonality where food comes from and stop thinking of food as something that should be cheap. It takes huge resources to make food and we don’t treat it that way.
Q: What are some major differences between your urban farm and a stereotypical farm?
A: Location, location, location. Environmental concerns are big, as most available urban land in large plots may have had some previous industrial use. There is little to no zoning or licensing for farming in urban areas. That was fine when it was just us giving it a try, but now that urban farming has become popular, we need standards and protection and security (for the food).
Q: How does your urban farm better the environment, in comparison to a regular farm?
A: Well it’s better than the galvanized steel plant which occupied the site years ago. Because we have planted so much of the property and the area around it, there is less water run off into stormwater collection. Our environmental impact is less because we do not use large tractors and harvesting equipment–it’s all done by hand. We are presenting issues to and educating the urban consumer, access to they often lack.
Q: What is different today from when you started Greensgrow?
A: Greensgrow was a self-funded business start up, today it is a non profit, that is open to the public, a community based farm, nursery, public space. So just about everything has changed. We rarely do hydroponics anymore which is how we got started.
Q: How did your farm grow to what it is today; employees, customers, services, goods?
A: Slowly. We never took on debt, we paid attention to what we spent and we let ourselves go in the directions our own minds told us to. These days it is the tail wagging the dog.
Q: What practices do you use for growing crops during the colder months?
A: We use unheated high tunnels. We have a new one that is just up in the winter and is insulated with a hay wall.
Q: What is the biggest outstanding achievement your urban farm has conquered compared to others in terms of involvement and education in your community?
A: First, lasting as long as we have with few resources. Also, staying true to our mission, not losing sight of our goals, assimilating into neighborhood which was very closed to outsiders. At the farm, they can see how much we care for our plants and our animals and how healthy they are. I don’t think our neighbors think too much about local foods or organic foods. They are lured by cheap processed food and who can blame them? That’s what the media tells them. Hopefully our existence has had some impact on them, You can lead a horse to healthy water but he may still prefer a soda. In the long run we will be judged by creating access to all regardless our their economic status.
Q: How do you know when to pull the plug?
A: When the water is cold. Literally and figuratively. If you’re not comfortable it may be time to rethink what you are doing, whether it is a relationship, parsnips or a project. This is one of the hardest things we have to do. It doesn’t mean the project isn’t viable or the guy or gal isn’t marriageable, it just means he she it is not for you. In the case of our senior markets we pulled the plug and then refilled the tub ten years later and the second time around had very different results. You have to know going in what you hope to get out. Be realistic. If you plant a pea, don’t expect a potato. Be honest about why you want to undertake something and then use analytics to measure how you’re doing. As a guide we give a project three years at Greensgrow. If we are feeling even tepid at that point. Glug, glug, glug.
Q: Are the eggs you sell from your chickens?
No, and there are a number of reasons for that. For one, we eat them all and they are the best. You do not want to see what happens when there’s only one egg left in the basket on the counter. Peace loving egalitarian green people getting downright ugly. Two, there are regulations about these things and we don’t have a license. Three, the whole place would have to be chickens and nothing but chickens we would not be able to keep up with the demand. Four, our girls are no longer teenagers and if they don’t want to put out we’re not gonna make them (not that we’d know how…). Five, we need the eggs because if you ever want to see a look of shock and pure unadultereated glee pull a fresh warm egg out from under a chicken and hand it to a child. The memory of that can get you through some long hot days when everything is going wrong.
Q: Speaking of chickens- I thought Philadelphia had an ordinance against raising animals?
A: True. The brain trust known as City Council outlawed raising farm animals in Philadelphia. I guess they missed the part about Philadelphia having a school dedicated to agriculture that has more FFA members that any other troop in Pennsylvania. This was an attempt to cut down on cock fighting and yes it was throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Now they want to repeal it. Chickens…. Eggs…. re-peel. Hahahahahahahah. As a nonprofit with an educational component the city is ok with our animals and we are inspected by the AG Department and the Department of Health, the SPCA to determine if we are good to our animals and responsible neighbors. When our neighbors asked us to get rid of Huey the Rooster (all bow their heads for a moment), we did. Plus he drove me bangers with that cockledoodledoodooing everywhere.
Q: Did you really buy your office for 1500 bucks?
A: You bet we did of course it wasn’t the design mecca it is now having had the bathroom set on fire and a bunch of feral cats living in it for a few years and the heat turned on for 4 years while no one but the cats were there- but today real estate in our neighborhood has gone up substantially.
Q: Why is Harvest From the Hood only available once a year?
A: Harvest is made from hops grown right here in the hood and they are harvested I fall and sent to PBC where they do their magic and somehow it comes out in a barrel. A limited vert limited run is bottled for us (maybe next year we could do growlers) is made available for our CSA members. Harvest generally sells out withing a week or so . that’s the nature of the beast.
Q: Whats’ the biggest lesson you have learned at Greensgrow?
A: Shit happens, toilet paper is expensive.
Q: Why aren’t there more farms like you guys?
A: Everyone does this work for different reasons, every piece of land is different every neighborhood wants different things. We stand by our work and the impact it has had in critical; areas food access education job creation and neighborhood redevelopment. That we have fun and like our work is a bonus. That people like us is a double bonus.
Q: My friend’s and I want to grow medical marijuana. Can you help us?
A: Hmmm. The short answer is no and the long answer is no.
Q: Where is Tom?
A: Tom runs Longview Farm a cut flower operation in Lumberton, New Jersey. He can be found at the Headhouse Market where he sells beautiful bouquets. We still lean onhim for advice and recipes. He is an emerita farmer at Greensgrow – returning occasionally to teach workshops to the staff.