The Phoenix Reporter and Item (http://www.phoenixvillenews.com)

Fresh and local offerings at Spring City market garden


By Heather Tyrrell , For 21st Century Media

Monday, August 12, 2013

Park Spring Apartments residents who want to eat healthy do not have to go far thanks to a market garden.
The market garden at the complex, located at 1800 Park Spring Blvd., is held each Wednesday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., and offers beets, Swiss chard, tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, kale and zucchini outside of the rental office. Neighbors of the complex are also invited to check out the market.
Park Spring Apartments, a Section 8, low-income family housing department, is owned by Interstate Realty Management.
Since 1999 Park Spring has had the garden, Social Services Coordinator Ed Rodriguez said, adding that it was his idea to turn the area that was a broken down playground into a garden.
Triskeles, an organization devoted to educating youths about sustainability, started managing the garden about six years ago, Rodriguez said.
Throughout the years, Park Spring families have been volunteering to grow crops in the garden. Rodriguez said he has always wanted a resident to take it over.
Triskeles partnered with Chester County Food Bank and Better Tomorrows, Interstate Realty Management’s foundation, for an internship. Through an education grant, resident Haron Bunkley is working as the market garden manager. Rodriguez also assists with some of the gardening.
Rodriguez and Bunkley said they haven’t used any chemicals or insecticides on the garden,
Bunkley said he has been working at the garden since March. He is enthusiastic about how far he has come with gardening.
“I had to learn everything,” he said. “I had never gardened before.”
Sebastian Kretschmer, a Triskeles farming consultant, taught him all about growing the crops. Staff member Yvonne Post helped teach him about marketing. Bunkley is in charge of maintaining the garden and running the market.
Rodriguez said about a dozen people come to the market each week.
Bunkley said, “We have a nice crowd from week to week. In the beginning, kale was selling faster. Then cabbage was selling faster.”
The vegetables are sold at a lower price than grocery stores.
Bunkley said the garden market is beneficial in several ways.
“It’s very healthy,” he said. “It makes us aware of where our food comes from.”
The garden is also helpful financially, Bunkley said.
“It beats local stores’ prices,” he said. “Why go somewhere else when you can go here?”
In addition, children, including Bunkley’s 6-year-old daughter, have been able to volunteer in the garden, learning about the vegetables and seeing where their food comes from.
Rodriguez said residents are given recipe cards to inform them how they can make healthy meals with the vegetables.
The vegetables that aren’t sold at the market are donated to Project Outreach, a food pantry that helps people in Spring City and Royersford.
Kimberton Whole Foods has bought some of the produce that doesn’t sell.
More buyers are needed. Anyone interested in becoming a buyer can contact Mark Birdsall, director of youth programs at Triskeles, 610-321-9876.