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A Visit to the Greensgrow Farmers’ Market with Chef Steve Poses

The Thursday afternoon farmers' market at Greensgrow (photo by M. van Ogtrop for GPTMC)

The following is an excerpt from a blog post by local restaurateur and caterer Steve Poses. This is one in a series of features he’s running on area farmers’ markets. To read the full text on his blog, click here.

(photos by S. Poses)

Greensgrow is more than a traditional farmers’ market; it’s an actual urban farm — right here in Kensington, just a few miles north of Center City. Greensgrow has an explicit agenda: to be a part of the Kensington community and to help it grow. In addition to the urban farm that grows a wide assortment of vegetables and plants, Greensgrow organizes area farmers and operates a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) for more than 400 families. And, the square block that is Greensgrow’s home provides the neighborhood a special sense of pride. As a sign on the premises says, Greensgrow Farms are “Growers of Food, Flowers and Neighborhoods.”

Despite wide areas of decay and abandonment, Kensington is clearly in Philly’s path of urban revitalization. Low rents and the relative proximity to Center City have made it an attractive area for young people, artists and new families looking for a community and ample space to live at a price they can afford.

Since colonial times, these same factors have been advantages of areas like Kensington that flank our downtown. From the 1800s to through the 1950s, Kensington was a thriving industrial center. But, in the 1950s, manufacturers began to leave inner cities and Kensington began a long period of de-industrialization and decline, leaving a legacy of abandoned properties and debris.

In 1985, the New Kensington Community Development Corporation was formed to address housing needs in the community and eventually expanded to include neighborhood quality-of-life issues. They created the Frankford Avenue Arts Corridor and developed the successful Coral Street Arts House.

In 1997, Mary Seton Conboy and Tom Sereduk started Greensgrow Farms —a reclaimed brownfield that covers the city block along East Cumberland Avenue. Shortly after starting, Sereduk headed for greener pastures, while Conboy dug in. “Abandoned land is only abandoned if we chose to leave it that way,” she says.

Greensgrow challenges our notion of what makes a farm.

The actual soil on which Greensgrow sits is not suitable for growing, so in its early years, the farm survived by producing hydroponic field greens for Philadelphia restaurants. Today, plants are grown in containers and raised beds in soil trucked in from New Jersey. Other area farmers and providers supplement Greensgrow’s homegrown produce to create a complete Farmers’ Market experience.

Thursday, bring the kids for 4 p.m. story time while you enjoy your shopping. They may or may not enjoy the free 6 p.m. Worm Composting Workshop. You can also tour the nursery if you’re so inclined.

Every neighborhood farmers’ market contributes its unique personality to the experience. It’s perhaps even more so with Greensgrow because of its commitment to the neighborhood. So, head out East Girard Avenue, on to Frankford and swing on over to Greensgrow. While you’re at it, watch a neighborhood grow. I promise you will enjoy yourself.

Greensgrow is located at 2501 East Cumberland Avenue and is open Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Steve Poses is founder of Frog Commissary. A local restaurateur, caterer and author, it’s his goal to increase home entertaining. Steve’s latest book, At Home by Steve Poses: A Caters Guide to Cooking and Entertaining, was released in 2009. It’s the inspiration for At Home Online, a website and blog designed to make home entertaining as easy as possible with tips, guides and recipes. Click here to subscribe to his e-newsletter. Steve can also be found on Twitter as @SPoses. Click here to follow him.