The Chester Housing Authority's community farm has been recognized with Mayor Kirkland's first Point of Light, an effort to highlight positive activities happening in the city.At the May 11th City Council session, Terrence Topping-Brown, who directs the 2-acre farm and its programming at Ruth L. Bennett Homes, delivered a presentation about all of the benefits the farm generates; environmental, personal, educational and physical.
"Environmentally, by creating this echo system we are providing a habitat for different Chester species," said the Shippensburg State University biology grad. "From a personal standpoint, experiencing life at the farm is empowering to see young plants grow."Topping-Brown noted that working on the farm is a good physical activity and teaches people to eat more healthily. But he said it's more than that."It's about making a connection with our environment, making connections with people in the community with a similar interest and working with other people," he said.
"For children it's about learning these skills, being exposed to growing and cooking food and arts and crafts and entrepreneurship in participating in the market process."Vegetables raised at the farm include collard greens, kale, okra, peppers and tomatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, spinach, and various root crops like beets and carrots.
The season runs from May through October.Tuesdays, there's a children's program from 4-6. Wednesdays, adults get their turn to farm from 10-2. On Thursdays community markets are held at various locations around the city and on Fridays a farmers market is staged inside the Bennett Community Center.All the money raised through the sale of the crops is reinvested in the farm for operating costs.
Two members of the community are being hired to do marketing and outreach and a third person to do farming and programs. In addition, teenagers are able to gain employment at the farm.Topping-Brown said presenting at City Council was a nice opportunity to share with City Council members and make them aware of the program and its benefits.
The housing authority's executive director, Steven A. Fischer, is proud that the program was singled out for recognition at City Hall."It's been eight years since we began planning and starting our urban farm at CHA, before the trend really caught on nationwide," Fischer said.
"Now, working with Terrence, we have taken this concept to a new level and are gratified to have Mayor Kirkland shine a positive light on the program."