By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
WEST POTTSGROVE >> Children and adults got their hands dirty during a volunteer work day for a new ArtFusion 19464 community farm program on Thursday.
People spent the beautiful spring day weeding, tilling garden beds and planting seeds. The 1-acre piece of land is located at 1260 Manatawny St. and is being used by ArtFusion as an outdoor learning opportunity for their Dirt to Tablecloth Community Program
“We’re planting a spring mix, arugula, spinach, radishes and carrots today,” said Erika Hornburg-Cooper, ArtFusion 19464 executive director, on Thursday.
ArtFusion is using land on Grace’s Farm for the community program which is owned by the Price family. The family is allowing the non-profit art center to use some of their land long-term in order to benefit area residents. Bill Price said the farm was originally owned by his grandparents in the 1930s who produced milk and grain. In recent years, the land hasn’t gotten much use so Price said his son, Dan Price, made it available to ArtFusion. Price said his late mother’s name was Grace which is who the farm is named after.
“She was just a giving person,” Bill Price said adding that his family is continuing her tradition of being charitable toward others.
Through the community farm, participants will learn about workforce development and get education in a variety of other skills.
“Dirt to Tablecloth” along with other ArtFusion educational community programs will be part of the Beech Street Factory once construction is completed. The conversion of the former Fecera’s Funiture warehouse is nearly done. The building will have 43 apartments available for rent in addition to space on the ground floor that ArtFusion will use for classrooms and a place to host cultural events.
The ArtFusion 19464 building on High Street will remain there as an art gallery but all community and education programs will be moved to the Beech Street Factory building, Laura Washington said. Washington is the new development coordinator of the Beech Street Factory community programs including “Dirt to Tablecloth.” She said the farm program will give both adults and children experience in growing food from the ground up. The program will even include chickens and ducks so participants can get a real feel for small-scale farming.
“One of the main goals and initiative of this particular program, Dirt to Tablecloth, is to educate students who participate in alternative school programs,” Washington said.
She said ArtFusion is currently working with the Pottstown School District to get students that were taken out of the traditional classroom because of disciplinary reasons, involved at the farm.
“We’re going to focus on providing them with some enrichment here at the farm,” she said.
Because the community farm is meant to engage in positive youth development and teach sustainable skills, Washington said students in need of community service hours or that have graduation projects are more than welcomed to participate as well. There is also a plan in the works to give individuals with special needs the opportunity to learn on the farm also.
After produce on the farm comes in, students and volunteers will use it for other aspects of the program. The food will be used in nutritious cooking demonstrations. Flowers and herbs will be used to make colonial crafts such as baskets, soap, candles and pottery. Vegetables grown on the farm and the crafts made will be sold weekly at the Pottstown FARM outdoor market once it opens this summer.
“We want to be able to sustain this program moving forward,” Hornburg-Cooper said.
She said she’s very appreciative of the Price family for giving ArtFusion the land to use which made the community farm possible. Hornburg-Cooper said the farm was also made possible through the continued support of the ArtFusion board of directors, sponsors like Advantage Insurance Group and a grant from the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation.
Washington said they are looking for volunteers for the community farm and that donations are always appreciated since they are often in need of supplies. Currently the program is in need of an 8 by 8 shed, park style picnic benches, a car port and power lawn tools such as a weed whacker.
Hornburg-Cooper said the Art Fusion website artfusion19464.org will soon have a page dedicated to the Beech Street Factory community programs. People can go there to find out more about volunteering and donating toward the community farm. For more information about the”Dirt to Tablecloth” program, contact ArtFusion at 610-326-2506 or email email@example.com.