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Billy Penn is pleased to present CravePhilly, a video and story series by Hope Cohen about the people who create food, restaurants, and agriculture in the Philadelphia region.
Christa Barfield is the “100% organically dope” force behind FarmerJawn. A rising voice in Philadelphia’s urban farming scene, her focus lies at the intersection of education, environmental science, and food justice.
The Germantown resident’s journey to the work began with a vacation to the Caribbean. As Christa sipped a cup of tea brewed from herbs grown on the very property where she was staying, the burnt-out 9-to-5er realized there might be more to life. So on her return, she quit.
Leaving behind the corporate job that had afforded her the vacation in the first place, she rededicated her life to the land, and to addressing food insecurity in her community.
Starting two years ago with a 4-by-6-foot plot, Christa grew a farm, a locally-sourced tea company, a plant boutique, and a CSA (community supported agriculture program).
Last summer she expanded. Five thousand square feet of FarmerJawn Greenhouses were started in Elkins Park, just beyond the city line, while 200 acres of community gardens sit close by in Roxborough’s Schuylkill Environmental Center. Recently added gardens can now be found in Kennett Square, graciously offered by Kennett Square Roots Collective.
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During the winter months, Christa seeds and grows her produce to maturity in the greenhouses, which allows FarmerJawn to provide fresh produce to Philly families year-round, without traditional seasonal restrictions. During the traditional growing season, she transplants her seedlings from the greenhouses to the farm, where they grow in pesticide-free soil until harvest. The greenhouses located in Roxborough and Germantown now serve as “propagation stations,” she said, while the bulk of growing is started in the ground.
Initially, FarmerJawn’s CSA provided weekly produce for 10 individuals; now it serves more than 60 member families. In addition, Christa offers free and subsidized memberships for Philadelphians who need them.
A CSA membership with FarmerJawn is curated to feed 3 to 4 people and consists of 8 to 10 items each week, including various organic vegetables, fruits, herbs, tea, and honey. Christa also includes all-natural food, home, and body products from local makers, as well as healthy recipes that teach families how to best take advantage of their fresh produce. The best part of sharing in a CSA, she said, is the surprise. Each week, members gain the opportunity to try new and different varieties of produce that quickly transform into family favorites.
Spring 2021 CSA memberships are sold out, but FarmerJawn’s produce can be picked up a la carte at The Food Trust’s Germantown Farmers Market at Germantown Avenue and Schoolhouse Lane on Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
In addition to growing and supplying produce, Christa strives to educate Philadelphians about the importance of healthy, locally-grown, pesticide-free produce.
Her ultimate goal, she said, is to eradicate Philadelphia’s “food deserts” — neighborhoods, typically home to Black, Latino, Indigenous and other marginalized communities, where there is little access to fresh, nutritious, affordable food. FarmerJawn is built around the belief that access to produce is a human right.