Generation Change Philly: The Urban Farmer

Posted by The Philadelphia Citizen on July 12, 2022

Christa Barfield is an urban horticulturist, entrepreneur, and agricultural educator, but on her Elkins Park farm, she happily calls herself a farmer. Tending rows of crops including tomatoes, turnips, arugula, and a variety of herbs, she relishes getting her hands into the soil. The mother of two is also founder and CEO of Viva Leaf Tea, growing and making locally grown organic herb infused teas, honeys, and syrups.

In addition, she oversees growing operations in Elkins Park and at several sites in Philadelphia for her 80-plus-member CSA (community-supported agriculture) FarmerJawn, providing a source for weekly fresh produce and locally made goods, as well as educational events on gardening, urban agriculture, cooking, and community celebrations like an upcoming pig roast. And, she manages retail operations at her recently opened food-focused garden store in Germantown.

With keen business sense, vision, adaptability and the belief that “the universe works in its own way,” Barfield is an irrepressible leader of today’s urban farming movement in Philadelphia. For her leadership, impact, and especially for her work bringing her farms’ and farming’s benefits to more Black and Brown Philadelphians, Christa Barfield is a Generation Change Philly fellow.

The benefits of urban agriculture are environmental, economic and social. Farmland in cities prevents soil runoff, reduces sewer overflows, improves air quality and reduces transportation costs. Community-supported agriculture ensures that capital stays within the community and promises economic growth. Technological innovations like vertical farming, hydroponics, and aquaponics allow urban farmers to operate outside the traditional growing seasons.

Several grassroots organizations in Philadelphia are working to re-establish Black- and Brown-led agriculture, educating their communities on urban farming, reclaiming the cultural legacy of BIPOC farmers and advocating for local economies.

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