Thanks to our extraordinarily generous supporters, 2014 ended on a high note for Urban Tree Connection. At the beginning of December, we announced the ambitious goal of raising $30,000 in 30 days, more than we had ever generated in the final month of the year. With the help of a generous $10,000 challenge grant, we were able to raise more than $47,000 in December! This will position us for big things in 2015, including improvements to our existing farm and garden sites, the development of new food production spaces, and the expansion of our teen apprenticeship program. Thanks to everyone who donated -- we are so grateful for your partnership! If you didn't have the chance to donate in December and still want to support our work in 2015, it's easy to contribute. Just go to our Donation Page and make an online gift with your Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover Card.
On Halloween afternoon, neighbors from Haddington celebrated the closing of the programs season at the Pearl Street gardens. Kids took tours of the garden shed (haunted by a mixture of neighbors, UTC staff, and critters), dressed up with face painting and a costume swap, and all shared a potluck feast. Especially delicious were the nine sweet potato pies cooked by Pearl Street VeggieKids with sweet potatoes grown in their own garden. About 25 parents and neighbors from Pearl St. and surrounding gardens cooked, donated food and helped host the event. It was an amazing show of community leadership and pride for the children's garden programs!
On October 25th, kids from the Pearl Street, Memorial, and Ward AME garden programs visited Milky Way Farms, a 4th generation family-run dairy farm just outside the city in Chester Springs. UTC program staff, teen apprentices, and a few dedicated neighbors led the trip. Kids got to see animals, picnicked by the cow pasture, ate ice-cream from the homemade creamery (from those dairy cows!), and took a tractor ride to pick pumpkins from the field.
On the last Saturday of summer, a sound crew rolled through, lights went up, and the Memorial Garden transformed into a beautiful concert space. Neighbors brought over chairs or sat out on porches, and kids gathered to listen to the African drumming group and two singers. Aissia Richardson, coordinator of the first Philadelphia Home Grown Music Festival, joined as MC for the last of eleven concerts in gardens across the city. We can't wait to partner again next year!
On Sunday, September 14 UTC staff and teens set up and ran a pop-up market at Sharon Baptist Church. Organized and led by Dori Buttz, UTC's Market Manager and farm team member, the set up happened early in the morning, offered a large and beautiful variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, some of which were grown at UTC farm sites. Jeff Daniels was there with wife, Patricia, offering colorful tomatoes and eggplants from the raised bed church garden, newly built on the Sharon Baptist grounds. Church members from two services came to check out the offerings and with UTC teen market assistants helping with tally sheets, they filled bags and queued up to pay at the check out table. It was a great success!
The Chester Housing Authority has asked Urban Tree Connection to transform 3.5 acres of underutilized open space at the 250-unit Ruth Bennett Housing Complex into a series of vegetable production beds, orchards, and edible gardens. We are excited and honored to have been selected for this cutting-edge initiative. With the help of Bennett residents and dedicated volunteers, UTC staff are making terrific progress on the first phase of the transformation. The entire project will take three years and all the skills of the UTC team as we engage community members, train residents to help run the farm, and implement programs for children and teens. Watch for our progress and let us know if you would like to help.