Farm-to-SEPTA Enters its Second Season

June 29, 2012

Features Expanded Commitment to Food Access

When SEPTA included a commitment to access to local food via transit as a goal under its Sustainability Program Plan, it didn't realize how much momentum and new partnerships the goal would create both within the organization and in the communities it serves. To quote James Beard: "Food is our common ground, a universal experience." This has most certainly been the case as SEPTA moves into its second season of its Farm-to-SEPTA initiative.

The initiative includes two programs:

  • 1) An employer-hosted CSA program, and
  • 2) Farmers markets at SEPTA stations.

CSA Program

The CSA program was developed in partnership with Delaware Valley Farm Share (DVFS), a joint venture between Farm-to-City and The Common Market. the CSA provides SEPTA employees with 6-8 produce options, farm-fresh eggs and a dairy plan option every other Tuesday. The Friday before delivery, employees receive a newsletter from DVFS providing a listing of produce they'll be receiving, as well as recipes for each item and nutritional information. The newsletter helps the participants organize the week ahead with meal planning and food purchases. It also introduces a featured farmer to help participants better understand where and how their items are grown.

The excitement among employees for the CSA program is easily evidenced by comments from Mary Dorman, Risk Management Administrator: "It is so important to me to know where my food comes from and how it is grown. We are fortunate to have local farms nearby. The best thing is the freshest fruit and vegetables delivered to my workplace! So convenient, so delicious and healthy, what more could I ask for!"

To further encourage employees to focus on healthy eating, SEPTA is partnering this year with Penn State Extension Nutrition Links. Penn State will conduct employee wellness outreach activities to introduce employees to healthy food options, food budgeting, meal planning and cooking. The program will partner with the SEPTA Wellness Team to meet with employees at several SEPTA locations to give an overview of its nutritional course and provide cooking demonstrations to teach employees how they can easily add healthy foods into their daily living.

Farmers Markets

The second focus area under Farm-to-SEPTA is to bring Farmers Markets to SEPTA stations. This continues to be a joint effort with The Food Trust and The Enterprise Center's Walnut Hill Community Farm. Last year SEPTA's partners introduced new markets at 1234 Market Street (SEPTA headquarters), Frankford Transportation Center and Olney Transportation Center. After a successful pilot campaign, these locations are back for a second season in 2012.

The farmstand at 1234 Market Street exemplifies the various components of SEPTA's food access goal. The farmstand is staffed by the Neighborhood Foods Youth Program (NF), a collaboration between The Enterprise Center Community Development Corporation and Urban Tree Connection. The NF model centers on under-served youth development; the approach is to empower disadvantaged youth from low-income neighborhoods to gain the skills necessary to operate food-focused programs. NF then places those youth in positions of real responsibility - running programs in urban farming production, distribution, and retail - while providing simultaneous agriculture, business, and leadership education.

The produce offered at the 1234 Market farmstand is largely grown on the Walnut Hill Community Farm at 46th & Market, the urban farm built on repurposed SEPTA property. The NF staffers then transport their products on the Market-Frankford Line for sale at 1234 Market. This truly brings new meaning to sustainability and the cradle-to-cradle concept - from repurposed SEPTA land via the SEPTA system to SEPTA employees.

Frankford Transportation Center Farmers Market (Tuesdays 2-6PM)

The championing of farmers markets at SEPTA transit centers also supports SEPTA's commitment to fostering business equity and encouraging small business development. This year's opening of the farmers market at Frankford Transportation Center (FTC) brought about the introduction of new farmers to the community, Root Mass Farm. Root Mass is small vegetable farm located about an hour outside of Philadelphia. SEPTA understands that by purchasing from local farms, the majority of every dollar spent goes back to the farmers that worked with great effort and care to grow your high-quality food. This helps support and sustain the local economy and encourages greater production and access to these healthy local options. Studies have also shown that small farms tend to reinvest money into the local economy by purchasing supplies from local businesses, thereby bolstering the entire community and supporting sustainability.

For a full listing of farmers markets around SEPTA stations and the associated transit options, click here.