Philadelphians are hot for local food. This week in particular highlights the extent to which urbanites from the City of Brotherly Love are invested in furthering local food production through action, purchasing power, and dialogue. I often refrain from writing myself into blog posts, but this activity-filled week happens to be that of my 30th birthday, so please pardon my indulgence as I reveal the top three events of the week in the following urban agricultural categories:
After a season of snow and frigid nights, spring cleanup has begun for growers across the city. Local DIY excitement mixed with an abundance of vacant lots and a hunger for local food has encouraged a diversity of residents – from laborers to lawyers – to roll up their sleeves and reach into the soil. Peas will soon creep up the sides of buildings, leading the gaze of many upward to contemplate the prime, underutilized skyline acreage. The cleanup buzz has overwhelmed me this week, as friends gear up for the season and chat about what vegetables they’ll plant and which would be appropriate for rooftops.
2 | PURCHASING POWER
What better way to support local farmers than by indulging in one (or two) of Philadelphia’s premier farm-to-table restaurants? The city’s strong farm-fresh cuisine culture makes it difficult to choose where to eat on a special occasion, so I chose two of my favorites. Farmicia, in Philly’s Old City neighborhood, features local, organic ingredients produced with sustainable practices. Barbuzzo, a hip Mediterranean restaurant in Center City, sources its meets, cheeses and vegetables from local artisanal farmers as well. Knowing that the positively sumptuous food at these restaurants was produced sustainably satisfies your soul in addition to your stomach.
3 | DIALOGUE (two-way tie)
The week kicked off with a thrilling Mark Bittman lecture in North Philadelphia at Congregation Rodeph Shalom. The synagogue hosted this seasoned New York Times columnist and award winning author, who spoke about “the future of food” with eloquence and humor. I was delighted to meet Mr. Bittman after the talk, where he signed my freshly purchased copy of “How to Cook Everything: The Basics.” Several days later I attended an international conference called “Feeding Cities: Food Security in a Rapidly Urbanizing World,” hosted by the University of Pennsylvania and the Rockefeller Foundation. The Feeding Cities conference attracted urban agriculturalists and food security experts from around the globe. The invigorating two-day affair succeeded in spurring conversation between everyone from small-scale growers to Sri Lanka’s Agriculture Minister.
As I enter into my 30s I feel exceedingly lucky to live in a city with such diversified urban agricultural interests. This is a city where residents are empowered to grow food in sidewalk strips and on roofs. This is a city with a burgeoning reputation as a foodie hotspot. This is a city where civic dialogue attracts global leaders. Outdoing this inspirational week will be difficult, but I’m up for the challenge.