Close Subscribe

Get the Weekly Recap!!

Get recaps, exclusive offers, stories and discounts. We’ll never share your email address and you can opt out at any time, we promise.

At Germantown Kitchen Garden, organic produce flourishes on a once-abandoned lot
Philly

At Germantown Kitchen Garden, organic produce flourishes on a once-abandoned lot

Urban farmer Amanda Staples promotes sustainability and land stewardship while sharing the bounty with neighbors at her Farm Stand and plant nursery in Northwest Philly.

When Amanda Staples first set foot on the half-acre lot in Germantown, it was a tangle of 25-foot high rose bushes and mulberry saplings, roots lodged alongside rubble. Neglected for decades, it was so thick with overgrowth that at first, she didn’t notice the two abandoned ice cream trucks parked in the back.

“You couldn’t walk through it,” said Staples, “It was chaos.”

Now, this patch of land just a few blocks off Germantown Avenue bustles with hundreds of garden enthusiasts from April to October. Nearly 14 years later, what was once a forgotten corner of Northwest Philadelphia has blossomed into Germantown Kitchen Garden, an organic plant nursery and Farm Stand.

Germantown Kitchen Garden
Amanda Staples walks through the Germantown Kitchen Garden

The business is founded upon Staples’ belief that green spaces are essential in urban environments. “I want cities to have more gardens, whether they’re food gardens or pleasure gardens or pollinator gardens, or whatever they are. I think having agricultural support, ecological support systems are important.”

The beginnings of Germantown Kitchen Garden

The plant nursery at Germantown Kitchen Garden officially opens for the season on Saturday, April 2, while the Farm Stand makes its springtime return the first Saturday in May. Both feature an array of sustainably grown plants that draw neighbors seeking fresh, local produce.

“The idea was to support our community, grow our own food, and raise awareness about agriculture and local food systems, while also being in a space that’s so densely populated that really could use some green space,” explained Staples.

Staples draws from a background rich in horticulture studies and land stewardship, having worked on farms in Kensington, Camden, and Lancaster. Revitalizing the lot in Germantown was no easy task. After clearing out the space and testing the soil, Germantown Kitchen Garden began as a humble “5-person CSA” for family and friends in summer 2009. It soon moved to a farm stand model.

“Having people come here and pick out what they want feels a gazillion times better as a farmer than, like ‘Here’s your stuff, hope you like it, I actually have no idea if you like it,’” said Staples. “That was immediately clear to me – the pleasure that it brought me to see people perusing and choosing what they want.”

Back then, the little table in front of the garden drew 10 or 20 people over the course of a few hours. These days, word-of-mouth and an email list typically attract 150-200 neighbors each weekend. 

The Farm Stand now runs May through October on Saturdays from 9-1. Neighbors can sign up to be members of the Farm Stand share, a CSA alternative that allows them to support the urban farm year-round, or they can stop by and purchase plants as needed.

Staples single-handedly grows much of the organic produce on display: kale, lettuce, onions and shallots, garlic, radishes, beets, carrots, and currants are just a sampling of what’s harvested right on the half-acre farm in Germantown. At the same time, she recognizes the limitations inherent to its miniature size. On such a petite lot, she has to prioritize and optimize what’s grown.

amanda staples
Amanda Staples, Germantown Kitchen Garden

“Nothing that takes up too much space, doesn’t produce enough or takes too long to grow. Things that have a quick turnaround, things that are special, things that you can make money off of.”

That means potatoes and winter squash are out of the question, much as she’d love to grow them; they simply don’t produce enough to justify the real estate. Staples has to be strategic in both what she grows and how she grows. She rotates crops from bed to bed, attempts to preserve her soil’s microbial life by not tilling, and uses mulch and tarp to keep weeds at bay.

Still, there are perks to farming on a micro-scale. “The benefit is that it’s a tiny enough space that I can just manage it,” said Staples. She’s also grown to view her own farm’s limitations as an opportunity: “The upside is I really feel like it’s a part of my business’ mission to promote and support other local organic farms.”

Germantown Kitchen Garden sources fresh produce that can’t be grown efficiently on-location from other sustainable farms in the region. Staples does not spray insecticides in her own garden and sources only from farms that adhere to the same practices. In her nursery, she enthusiastically refrains from partaking in the mainstream trend of neonicotinoids – highly controversial, widely used, systemic insecticides with potentially deleterious effects to plants and pollinators alike – and encourages others to do the same.  

Supporting local bakers, beekeepers, and chefs is also part of the mission. Saturday Farm Stand shoppers can pick up produce alongside goodies from Philly-based businesses like Fishtown FermentsDead King Bread, and Instar Apiaries.

This year, the nursery at Germantown Kitchen Garden will be open both Saturdays and Sundays in April and May, before returning to a Saturday-only schedule through the season’s close in October. Shoppers can also order online for daily pickup, a relic of early-pandemic days, when online ordering kept the business afloat. 

Staples says echinacea, ferns, and Japanese anemone are some of her most popular offerings from the nursery. She also sells seedlings packages containing favorites like sweet and hot peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, and herbs to suit both the casual patio gardener and more serious homesteading types.

While interest in home gardening and locally grown produce skyrocketed during the COVID-19 era, social distancing detracted from the community gathering element that is at the heart of Germantown Kitchen Garden. This spring, Staples looks forward to seeing neighbors show up at the farm, lingering to trade recipe ideas or gardening tips.

“Being out here on a Saturday morning, having people show up, having people get excited about what’s on the table… that’s my jam. That’s what I want to do.”

Germantown Kitchen Garden is located at 215 East Penn Street in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. The Farm Stand is open Saturdays from 9-1, May through October. The plant nursery is open Saturdays 9-1 from April to October and Sundays from 10-2 in April and May. 


Become a Supporter!

If you love what we do you can support our mission with a one-time or monthly contribution.
array(2) {
  [0]=>
  object(WP_Term)#6831 (10) {
    ["term_id"]=>
    int(4112)
    ["name"]=>
    string(14) "Amanda Staples"
    ["slug"]=>
    string(14) "amanda-staples"
    ["term_group"]=>
    int(0)
    ["term_taxonomy_id"]=>
    int(4120)
    ["taxonomy"]=>
    string(8) "post_tag"
    ["description"]=>
    string(0) ""
    ["parent"]=>
    int(0)
    ["count"]=>
    int(1)
    ["filter"]=>
    string(3) "raw"
  }
  [1]=>
  object(WP_Term)#6832 (10) {
    ["term_id"]=>
    int(4111)
    ["name"]=>
    string(25) "Germantown Kitchen Garden"
    ["slug"]=>
    string(25) "germantown-kitchen-garden"
    ["term_group"]=>
    int(0)
    ["term_taxonomy_id"]=>
    int(4119)
    ["taxonomy"]=>
    string(8) "post_tag"
    ["description"]=>
    string(0) ""
    ["parent"]=>
    int(0)
    ["count"]=>
    int(1)
    ["filter"]=>
    string(3) "raw"
  }
}
Stephanie Ostroff loves exploring green spaces in and around Philly. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and has been published in National Geographic, Generocity, and Fathom. When she’s not writing, she works as a speech/language therapist at AIM Academy. In her free time, Stephanie enjoys getting lost in the Wissahickon, practicing yoga, and planning travel adventures. View all posts by Stephanie Ostroff

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Green Philly

Featured
In These
Great Spots: