NORTH PHILADELPHIA, PA - Over the past year, two teams of Temple University engineering students helped renovate an urban farm in North Philadelphia as their senior design project.
Brett Riley says he was in his senior year at Temple and living off Poplar Street when he noticed the dilapidated greenhouse/high tunnel inside the Poplar Garden farm at 8th and Poplar. After seeking out the farm’s owners, he and classmate Kamila Florczak had the idea to repair the high tunnel for their engineering senior design project.
Marta Lynch and her team from the Federation of Neighborhood Centers run the farm; where they grow, pick and then sell fruits and vegetables to people in the neighborhood. They have a farmers market on Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. from May to October.
Over the years, the farm has grown to include a fruit orchard, beehives that produce honey, and also a composting area.
Lynch and her team educate students from nearby schools and rec-centers about the benefits of urban farming and healthy eating.
Isaih Alamo worked at the farm last summer and he said the skills he learned at the poplar garden have changed his life. “I did garden installations for Marta, and seeing the work that I’ve done and seeing how all the vegetation grows around the block, it really brings out a happiness inside me,” explained Alamo.
But Lynch says the Temple students helped breath new life into the farm.
The team of four students, installed solar panels so the high tunnel for electricity, they added insulated walls to keep in heat to extend the grow season, and they also installed a rainwater catchment system with filtration and tanks to collect a water supply for the farm’s crops. They focused on making the high tunnel self-sustainable.
When it came time to graduate, Riley and Florczak’s team passed off the project to the next group of Temple engineering students to finish what they started.