A Farm Grows in South Philly

In the shadow of the stadiums, an urban farm is growing and selling produce that caters to local needs and tastes.

What do you think of when you hear the word “farm”? A place that you have to drive to outside the city? Several hundred acres in a rural setting? Actually, farms may be closer than you think– in the most unexpected locations. 

Urban farms have been popping up all over Philadelphia since the 1990’s, transforming former industrial sites and vacant land into beautiful green spaces. They have made a huge impact on the neighborhoods they inhabit by giving residents access to a local source of fresh food, and in most cases, acting as centers for education on sustainability. 

Perhaps the most well-known example of this is Greensgrow Farms in Kensington. Started in 1997 on the vacant lot of what was once a steel factory, it has evolved from a small wholesale business for hydroponically grown baby greens to the successful, multifaceted non-profit organization that it is today. 

Other new urban farms have followed in the footsteps of Greensgrow. A relatively new one is located within easy walking distance of the stadiums in South Philly. Novick Urban Farm was started in 2012 by Gary Novick, co-owner of Novick Corporation, a food wholesaler that has been in business for almost a century. 

Stadium at sunset from the farm. Credit: Novick Urban Farm.

Started on undeveloped land near the company’s headquarters, the initial goal was to see if farming the land was feasible. In less than 10 years the farm has, according to its website, grown into “a thriving, 501(c)(3) non-profit, educational center that yields 20,000 pounds of organic produce for the community each year.”

Farm Manager Jessica Wolf explained part of their mission: “Since its inception, the farm has been a space centered around teaching and community engagement. Each year, the farm reaches around 1,500 students who come on field trips from area preschools, daycares, and summer camps to learn about plants and the importance of healthy eating.”

Childrens’ program on the farm. Credit: Novick Urban Farm.

Wolf continued, “we also provide summer employment for teens through WorkReady, in addition to our internship and apprenticeship programs.” Apprentices, according to the website, “become true farm leaders while also giving back to others as they help to distribute produce to food-insecure families. Participants are trained in skills such as sustainable growing, proper food handling and sales tracking.”

The farm is mindful of local needs and tastes, “We work closely with our community members, growing culturally important produce for our Southeast Asian immigrant and refugee community here in South Philly.”

In 2018 the company opened a farm stand in Mifflin Square where they joined partner organization SEAMAAC at their newly formed Vendor’s Village

“SEAMAAC has been doing great work to revitalize the park, and we are happy to be a part of that effort! Our farm stand operates in Mifflin Square Park every Wednesday, from 2-6pm, May through October. Everything that we sell is grown organically on our farm, less than 1 mile from the park. We accept SNAP/EBT cards, FMNP vouchers, and cash. Everything is priced affordably, with most things being $1.”

For the latest information on Novick Urban Farm and the farm stand at Mifflin Square, please follow them on Facebook and Instagram.