When Jessica Shoffner moved from Kansas to Philadelphia back in 2008, she brought her country roots with her. Taking control of several abandoned lots in her neighborhood, the Kensington resident worked on them until the properties became known as Hart Lane Farm.
Hart Lane Farm is one of several urban farms that has sprouted up in Kensington.
In the United States, interest in urban farming has increased by more than 30% in the last 30 years. Many of these urban farms were abandoned lots that attracted rodents, blight, and illegal dumping. Now the lots are being used, teaching many people how to be self-sustainable and feeding families in impoverished areas. Not only do these gardens provide food, but studies have shown that crime rates decrease in places with green spaces and urban farms.
“[Urban farming] offers a safe space to enjoy barbecues and to feel safe,” Shoffner said. “It also helps folks feel pride and dignity for their community.”
Gardening is good for mental and physical health. According to Forbes, gardening can reduce depression, anxiety, and body mass index while increasing quality of life. On top of the health benefits, there are bacteria in the dirt called Mycobacterium vaccae that makes your brain produce more serotonin and improves your mood.
Working in gardens can also be a good workout, even just pulling weeds. One group has decided to combine the concept of gymnastics and urban farming. Flip Out Productions is setting up its first urban farm open to the community from Monday through Saturday.
Earlier this year, Flip Out Productions owner Katie Rivera decided to put a community garden on their property, immediately hiring someone to build an outdoor greenhouse and gardening beds.
Rivera plans to allow all community members to use the garden and take the fresh and healthy food. She also plans on teaching the kids in her program how to garden to grow food themselves.
Both women seemed to agree that long-term urban farms can produce positive outcomes for people and wildlife. With the influx of urban farms, gardeners have seen many native animals return to Kensington.
“It definitely encourages bees and pollinators and … native insects and birds,” Shoffner said. “I’ve seen groundhogs out … We’ve found snakes in the garden.”
Urban farms and gardens are even helping some creatures on the verge of extinction. This year, there were more than 335,000 monarch butterflies in the Annual Thanksgiving Count in California and Arizona, the highest number since 2000. The butterflies migrate thousands of miles when it gets cold to warmer climates.
Butterflies are also necessary to the environment as they, like bees, pollinate plants, and pollination is vital to the growth of all plants and food.
During the flowering process, pollination can lead to fertilization and successful seed and food production. If bees or butterflies were to go extinct due to decreasing green spaces, then humanity and many other species would be in a lot of trouble, as 80% of crop plants grown around the world require pollination from animals.
Even growing food can help these populations, as many plants flower before the food starts to grow. Kensington is home to a few pollinator gardens, intentionally beautifying the neighborhood while attempting to attract bees and butterflies.
Philadelphia has an estimated 40,000 abandoned lots and a crime rate to match. There were 2,273 shootings in 2022. One study found that efforts to clean and transform vacant lots in low-income neighborhoods led to a 29% reduction in gun violence.
Community gardens can improve living conditions and quality of life in low-income neighborhoods like Kensington. Want to get involved? Here is a list of the gardens and urban farms in the Kensington area.
The Butterfly Garden
Address: 1902 Somerset Street
La Cantina Garden
Address: 2800 D Street
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sundays, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Emerald Street Community Farm
Address: 1937 E. Dauphin Street
Hours: Wednesday from 5 p.m – Sundown
Flip Out Gymnastics Garden
Address: 2757-59 Frankford Avenue
Hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.- 8:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Hart Lane Farm
Address: 544 Hart Lane
Hours: Saturdays, 9:30 a.m.-12 p.m.
Kensington Corridor Trust Garden
Address: 3236 Kensington Avenue
Hours: Tuesdays, 1-3 p.m.
The Lily Garden
Address: Hart Lane and Emerald Street
Madison Street Healing Garden
Address: 2000 E. Madison St
Address: 2248 Palethorp Street
Port Kensington Farm
Go to the Facebook group for more information
The Rainbow Garden
Ruth Street Garden
Address: 3049 Ruth Street
Simple Way Garden
Address: 3209 Potter Street
Hours: Thursdays, 9:30 a.m.-12 p.m.
St. Joan Of Arc Garden
Address: 3542 Joyce Street
Editors: Siani Colón, Zari Tarazona Designer: Zari Tarazona