Organic Consumers Association

Successful Urban Organic Farm Project in Philadelphia

From <> 10/2/03
30 September

Somerton Tanks Farm, on Philadelphia Water Department land in the 200 block
of Tomlinson Road in the Far Northeast, is an experiment in urban farming.
Less than six months old, the farm is flourishing, with two full-time
workers churning out everything from tomatoes to cilantro -- and a salad mix
that has already become legendary among its devotees.

"We wanted to prove that a city person who didn't have a lot of resources
could, in fact, practice urban agriculture and be successful at it," said
Roxanne Christensen, a volunteer accountant for the operation.

Scattered efforts in urban farming are already under way in Philadelphia,
but Somerton Tanks is a model that can be replicated by anyone with some
land and as little as $20,000 seed money. The farm is expected to gross
$25,000 this year and could double that next year.

The farmers practice intensive relay farming. The half-acre is divided into
200 2-by-25-foot beds, and most are planted with high-value crops -- like
lettuce and spinach -- that grow quickly and sell for a good price.

The farmers are doing a brisk business with local restaurants, such as Blue
Bell's Normandy Farms, and appear at local farmers' markets, including those
in Rittenhouse Square and near South Street. Somerton Tanks Farm produce has
already developed a loyal fan base.

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