By Melissa Bischoff
2021 was a year of uncertainty, change, and resilience. In the face of an ongoing global health crisis, it became even more apparent just how important our work is to promote health and well-being for our communities.
Here, we highlight some of our accomplishments from this year — we are so grateful for your support to achieve this level of impact!
To help address the critical need for Montgomery County families to access nutritious food, the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners approved $1 million in CARES Act funding for the County’s Food Security Assistance and Workforce Development Program to increase food sovereignty for participants, their families, and their communities, while also providing job training and self-reliance for the future.
This investment helped create the PHS Green Resource Center at Farm Park – a comprehensive teaching and produce-growing facility that is slated to open in March of 2022. Located within Norristown Farm Park on a two-acre site, the Center includes: a teaching farm, a greenhouse, shade area for seedlings, a wash station, a pavilion for public programming, pollinator gardens, community garden beds, and workforce development opportunities in conjunction with YWCA Tri-County Area. We look forward to its formal opening in 2022 to promote food sovereignty for this community.
Initially launched in 2020 as a response to the economic effects of the pandemic, PHS’s Same Day Work and Pay program provided job opportunities for more than 500 underemployed and unemployed Philadelphians in historically disinvested communities throughout the year. Based on overwhelmingly positive community response and the program’s impact in such a short period of time, it has become abundantly clear there is an ongoing need for this type of local workforce development program. PHS Workforce Development Manager Amber Crawford says:
“When I first started working to manage the program, I thought it would be really good when it comes to the pandemic hitting and people needing money. But it became so much bigger than them just needing money. This has impacted people's lives. I've seen participants receive jobs and build social connections to the point where they're now being mentored by other people.”
With additional funding and support from the City of Philadelphia and our caring community partners, we plan to add more daily job opportunities in 2022 that make neighborhoods cleaner, greener, and healthier.
In its second year, PHS’s Harvest initiative once again filled local food banks with nearly 20,000 pounds of produce, with engagement from more than 4,000 participants. In addition, $30,000 was raised during the growing season for education and training of both new and experienced produce gardeners.
While PHS Harvest is not a complete solution to the food insecurity problem in the U.S., the program has empowered and motivated our local communities to play an active role in gardening — whether growing produce in a garden, in a kitchen, or on a front stoop — while gaining access to fresh, healthy food. The education and resources made possible by the PHS Harvest initiative are proven to provide long-term benefits.
The PHS McLean Urban Agriculture Tool Library was created in 2021 as a free resource for community gardens in the Philadelphia area. The Tool Library offers a wide variety of gardening tools, machines, and equipment for gardeners in the PHS Community Garden Program as well as sites participating in City Harvest. There are 513 unique tools or items available for rent, including gardening supplies like row cover, insect netting, hoops, cover crop seeds, tomato stakes, and other trellising materials.
Gardeners can browse the inventory online, visit the tool library at Glenwood Green Acres, and check out their preferred equipment (like a library book!) for free. In 2021, 524 tool loans were completed by more than 50 customers or gardens. The most popular tool was the battery-operated chain saw, which was rented 8 times. The cider press was another popular item — especially in the fall!
Next year, the Tool Library will offer additional supplies such as bulk compost, soil blend, mulch, and lumber for raised beds — making it a one-stop shop for more than 150 community gardens’ organic gardening needs.
In 2021, the region’s world-famous and most looked-to gardening attraction — the PHS Philadelphia Flower Show — moved outdoors for the first time in 193 years. The Show took place at FDR Park in South Philadelphia, which allowed guests to safely experience the beauty of “Habitat” under warm, sunny skies! The Show featured three distinct “districts,” with expansive floral displays, shopping, food and beverage, music, and interactive experiences interspersed throughout the Show grounds.
None of this would have been possible without the nearly 1,000 Flower Show volunteers who contributed more than 6,000 hours over the duration of the Show. We learned a lot from our first outdoor Flower Show, and can’t wait to welcome guests back to FDR Park in 2022 for an enhanced experience based on what we learned.