DAUPHIN COUNTY: Urban farming

Just across the street from Joshua Farm in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania are two auto mechanic garages. Broken machines linger in stark contrast to flourishing asparagus and kale sprouting in hand-formed rows. Kirsten Reinford comes from a farming background but could not afford to purchase the family farm; and she and her husband enjoyed living in the city. So on a walk with her son in 2004, Kirsten spotted an abandoned lot used occasionally by a middle school for athletics and recreation. She researched the lot's owner at the Court House and approached the School District about starting a farm. Before converting the sports field to a food field, the School District required she operate as a non-profit and agree to include youth in her venture. But the prospect of coordinating a board and managing an organization seemed to detract from Kirsten's drive to farm. A friend suggested she partner with the Joshua Group, a non-profit working with at-risk youth in the neighborhood.

Joshua Farm today plants vegetables in 14 plots measuring seventy-five feet by twenty feet with five beds in each; they have expanded to an additional field in a different location in the city. There are young farmhands employed over the summer season to dig and pull alongside Kirsten and Josh (no relation to the organization). Josh works full-time farmer on the farm and Kirsten is part-time. Joshua Farm relies heavily on volunteer labor from local college students, CSA workshares and interested community members. A passive-solar greenhouse gives the farm's plants a warm start and a high-tunnel the farm built with an NRCS grant several years ago has helped to extend the season. The high-tunnel has a newly installed overhead irrigation system that will hopefully be fed water from a rain catchment system in the future. The farm's bounty is provided to eaters through a CSA, farmstand and area farmer's cooperative CSA. They accept SNAP/EBT and FMNP vouchers. Though not certified, the farmer is planted according to organic principles using no synthetic chemicals and few organic herbicides or pesticides.

Joshua Farm hosts service-learning groups of all ages, from preschool on up. The farmers at Joshua Farm have worked to make their piece of the neighborhood an inviting place for folks to come and learn where their food comes from, how it is grown and the wonders of the nature. Read about the farm in the recent issue of Seedstock: http://seedstock.com/2013/05/13/urban-farm-in-harrisburg-pa-sees-limitless-demand-for-its-produce/

Pennsylvania Women's Agricultural Network


302 Armsby Building
University Park, PA 16802