On Thursday September 15th, Nationalities Service Center held an open house at the Growing Home Urban Farm to celebrate a bountiful first growing season. The rain came and went in spurts but it did not dampen the spirits of those in attendance. NSC staff and Growing Home farmers were excited to show off the project to visitors from various agencies around Philadelphia, including Deputy Mayor Michael DiBerardinis. Many of the guests had not seen the gardens since NSC first signed the lease in early April when it was a trash filled, weedy lot. Everyone felt a great deal of pride showing the guests what these vacant lots have become.
Visitors got to meet many refugee families who came out in the rain, hear their stories, and see the packed lots growing as much food as possible on every inch. The farmers exuded pride and excitement as they showed off their plots and told people what they grow.
Of course, it would not be a farm event withouth some amazing food and drinks.
The highlight for many was hearing one of the Burmese elders talk about her experiences here. She is one of the farmers who comes out every single day and has produced an amazing amount of greens, chilis, tomatoes, herbs, and more. She comes early to every event to clean and prep. At the open house, she spoke through an interpretor, at first whispering with her head down. As time went on she began to talk louder and even glance up at the group. This elder explained how she has been here for two years, but did not meet many other people. She was afraid to leave her house and had nowhere to go in the neighborhood. Growing Home has become a place of solace for her. She has met other Burmese and now feels comfortable leaving her house every day to come to the garden. She said she is happiest when she gets to be out watering and working with her friends. The vegetables taste just like what she grew back home and she ended by saying “they took our land and you have given it back to us.”
As the season begins to wind down, this event helped NSC and the farmers to take stock of how far the project has come this year and how much they have accomplished. Though the farms are small, they have transformed the city block that they are on, and for many, their lives in Philadelphia.