Calm, peace, community, poverty. It’s more than just a farm.
This is where we met Jesse, Patrick and Sam.
These men lead and work in Martha’s Choice Community Farm and Market, having done so in the past year during the pandemic.
“The farm grows food to donate to the Montgomery County pantries, but it’s also a place where we can open up to all kinds of people and say, hey, if this was your farm, how would you use the farm for your voucher? ‘” Jesse Antonini, community farm development manager for Martha’s Choice Marketplace and Community Farm, said.
They have a significant impact on the community by providing organic farm-fresh produce, meat, canned goods and pantry staples to low-income residents. “Our mission is to build a community through access to healthy food,” said Antonini.
Six people, including students and Cabrini staff, made the trip to Norristown to visit Martha’s Farm and meet with the organizers in hopes of volunteering.
“Phenomenal,”Anri Vardanyan, senior major in criminology, said of his experience on the farm. “It is one of the most therapeutic types of activities we have to offer at Cabrini.”
Cabrini University’s partnership with Martha’s Choice Marketplace and Community Farm is no accident. Dr Ray Ward, director of the Wolfington Center, says: “We have long term commitments against hunger and food insecurity in Cabrini. We have a number of faculty members who have engaged in this type of work, we also have the Pierce scholarship and that goes to Mother Cabrini’s mission – all the work she has done to ensure that people had the basic necessities… it’s the same thing. kind of job Jesse and Patrick do at Martha’s.
As we hopped out of the van and exited the farm, we were greeted by Buster, the lively brown-spotted dog who greets strangers with a smile and a lick.
While walking in the grass, we saw a mural of butterflies so beautiful that you couldn’t miss it if you tried to read “We come as boys… we fly free as men”. It was a hazy, vibrant nature lover’s dream.
We walked past the tool shed, down the concrete stairs to a private patio with a metal and stone water fountain, light green trees in bloom, and dark blue sofas. Black-eyed susan flowers were growing near the tool shed.
Sam Martino, farm volunteer, then showed us around the farm. He explained that they had a cow, llamas and chickens and that they would fertilize the soil. Martino also gave us a bonus tour of the abandoned Catholic School for Boys Saint Gabriel’s Hall of Catholic Social Services across the street. The lobby is now used as a storage location for marketplace supplies.
Passing through the farm you will find a medium sized garden with tons of tomatoes, zucchini, pumpkins, kale, peppers, basil, tomatillos, perilla, potatoes and corn. “Why is it good,” Vardanyan said with a smile after tasting the green tomatillos and peppers from the farm.
While the experience was initially meant to help manage the farm garden (it was raining), after listening to the personal experiences of the volunteers, we realized that the history of Martha’s Choice Marketplace and Farm was a long one. The work of the community dates back over a century through Catholic Social Services.
Initially, this was a boys-only juvenile prevention program as an alternative to juvenile detention centers, but it has evolved into a food justice advocacy project for the local community.
If you’ve been in the market before, you may have noticed that the installation works a little differently. “We had to move from a model of choice [due to the pandemic], where people came to shop like a grocery store for [now] all services behind the wheel, ”said Antonini. “Now we’re going to try to make a hybrid, where there is a drive-thru option and where you can also enter. “
At the end of our trip, Martino sent us with zucchini, flowers and pumpkin leaves. So many reasons to come back.
Interested in volunteering? The Wolfington Center now offers bi-weekly service trips on Fridays this semester. Ward strongly encourages you to try it. “It takes the distress and desperation out the window when you actually see the impact your actions can have and see the allies you can join to do these things,” Ward said.
For more information on Martha’s Choice Marketplace and Community Farm, visit https://marthaschoicemarketplace.com/community-farm/ and https://youtu.be/HLBD5VAxy8o
For more information on upcoming Wolfington Center activities, contact Ray Ward at [email protected].