The Transformative Impact of Urban Farming in the Delaware River Watershed

In the heart of Philadelphia, Farmer Jawn Agriculture is leading a revolutionary movement in urban farming. Led by CEO and Founder Christa Barfield, the nation’s largest black woman owned produce farm utilizing regenerative organic practices is deeply aware of the impact their farms have on the water supply within the Delaware River watershed.

At the core of Farmer Jawn Agriculture’s mission is the reconnection of urban communities with farming, while simultaneously tackling food accessibility issues in the Philadelphia region.

By making the conscious choice to utilize regenerative and organic farming methods, Farmer Jawn aims to ensure both the health of local water sources and the availability of nutritious food for the communities it serves.

Two volunteers helping in the Farmer Jawn Agriculture greenhouses

Barfield’s journey into farming began with a transformative experience in Martinique. Starting with a modest 1500 square-foot plot, she quickly recognized the potential for farming to positively impact her community. This evolved into the acquisition of a 50,000 square-foot greenhouse near Center City Philadelphia, followed quickly by the acquisition of additional spaces in Elkins Park and 123 acres in nearby Chester County. In 2021 she created the CornerJawn project, improving fresh food accessibility in Philadelphia neighborhoods.

Protecting the Delaware River watershed is important to Farmer Jawn Agriculture, both for the city and its residents. Barfield never considered what was in the city’s water supply before working in agriculture. She now firmly believes in the healing power of food as medicine, and her commitment to regenerative and organic farming reflects her dedication to fostering the healthiest possible water and food for urban communities.

Identifying a key challenge in urban communities, Barfield highlights the disconnect between food production and consumption. Much of the food grown outside cities fails to circulate back into urban centers, resulting in unaffordable food prices for residents. Farmer Jawn seeks to bridge this gap, ensuring that locally grown produce remains accessible to all members of the community.

farmers working in regenerative agriculture fields with Farmer Jawn Agriculture

Embodying the ethos that “Agriculture is the culture”, Farmer Jawn is committed to reintroducing farming into urban lifestyles, promoting physical, social and environmental well-being. Barfield underscores the interconnectedness of everything to farming, from the water we drink, to the clothes we wear, emphasizing the silent but central role farmers play in our daily lives.

Rodale Institute is privileged to collaborate with Christa Barfield and Farmer Jawn on their visionary mission. We eagerly anticipate the realization of their vision, which promises to redefine food access and equity in Philadelphia and beyond.

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