A New Zoning Code, and a New Era for Urban Agriculture in Philly
Estimated 350 community gardens or farms across 753 parcels
By Emma Fried-Cassorla
Next American City
Perhaps most well known for its location in the original space of Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, the Philadelphia community development corporation The Enterprise Center more importantly helps run the Walnut Hill Community Farm located at 46th and Markets streets in West Philly.
The quarter-acre urban farm and pocket park combo has an array of food-focused programming to empower youth from low-income neighborhoods.
Student-workers can be seen carting their wares to market via the Market-Frankford elevated line, which not only runs above the farm but also provides water for irrigation via a solar powered stormwater collection system. Neighbors can join the kids, volunteers and farm manager in their own community plots. There’s a farm stand on site, and a community-supported agriculture program. It’s an altogether bucolic scene along one of the city’s busy commercial corridors.
It is also the scene of the interplay between urban agriculture and zoning. Until last August, urban agriculture — whether in the form of community gardens, farms, greenhouses or livestock — was not recognized as a land use by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission. The Garden Justice Legal Initiative conservatively estimates 350 community gardens or farms across 753 parcels, a figure that does not include the hundreds of backyard gardens. These numbers represent, again conservatively, agricultural production on land that is not owned by the cultivator. It includes the better-known farms like Weavers Way and Greensgrow, as well as numerous smaller community plots with no farm sales.