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Frequently Asked Questions
What is the history of Mill Creek Farm?
A Little Taste of Everything (ALTOE) is a non-profit agency whose mission is to increase access to nutritious,
affordable foods and provide food system education for low-income populations in Philadelphia. ALTOE grew out
of a youth-driven project at University City High School (UCHS) in conjunction with the Urban Nutrition Initiative (UNI) and received its non-profit status in 2005. ALTOE evolved from previous efforts to improve food security in West Philadelphia communities through school gardens and farmers’ markets.
ALTOE’s mission is implemented through the Mill Creek Farm (MCF), an educational urban farm project.
In August 2005, the Philadelphia Water Department awarded ALTOE 1.5 acres of vacant land at 49th and
Brown Streets in the Mill Creek Neighborhood of West Philadelphia on which to start the project. Initial funding for
MCF came from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Growing Greener Grant for Stormwater Management and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS). The Mill Creek Farm had a successful first season
in 2006, and has continued to grow and progress as a model for local food system development and sustainability
education in succeeding years.
Mill Creek runs under the land we work on and are enclosed in a sewer ~100 years ago. Housing was built on
fill that was not stable for the foundations and began to subside. It was eventually torn down in the 1970s. Since
that time there has been a community garden on the western portion of the block, but the eastern portion sat
vacant except for trash and weeds until 2005.
How can I donate?
Tax-deductible donations can be made
Online using the link at the bottom of the page.
In person at the farm
Mail - Send a check made out to “A Little Taste of Everything/Mill Creek Farm” to the following address.
The Mill Creek Farm
PO Box 28934
Philadelphia, PA 19151
What do you grow?
We grow peas, potatoes, asparagus, garlic, onions, okra, carrots, beets, leeks, pears, apples, peaches, berries,
herbs (culinary and medicinal), flowers, beans, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cabbage, mustard greens, lettuce, scallions, broccoli, cucumbers, chard, kale, collard greens, spinach, turnips, radishes, sweet potatoes, summer
squash, and zucchini.
The assortment and varieties are chosen based on past marketing experience (consumer demand) and in
partnership with City Harvest, where we get the majority of our seeds and seedlings.
Where does the food go?
Most of our produce is sold directly to residents of the neighborhood at the farmstand we operate on our farm, or at the farmer’s market two blocks away. Once a week we donate produce to church-based food cupboards and we sometimes donate to a women’s shelter, all located in West Philly. We regularly sell produce to Mariposa Food Co-op, and irregularly to several cafés in West Philly. We rarely sell outside of our West Philadelphia community, which is our target.
We keep logs of the amount of produce donated throughout the season. In 2014 we harvested 5,300 lbs of produce, donated 1,200 lbs, and sold over $10,000 within two miles of the farm.
What are your farm management practices?
Pests: To fight pests such as harlequin beetles and flea beetles we use several non-toxic methods,
including physical barriers such as REEMAYâ row-covers, organic sprays (garlic, neem, and hot pepper),
and picking them off by hand.
Weeds: Our most common weeds are mugwort and crabgrass with strong rhizome root systems.
We do all our weeding by hand, with tools such as digging forks.
Fertilizer: We use compost, fish/seaweed liquid, worm castings, and compost tea. Soil management:
We practice crop rotation and use crop diversity, including companion planting and cover crops such as
buckwheat, clover, rye, and oats.
Most of our material inputs come from the City Harvest project.
Who owns the land?
Currently, the land that the Mill Creek Farm maintains, along with the adjacent community garden, is owned
by the City of Philadelphia through the Redevelopment Authority and is leased to the Philadelphia Water Department.
We are trying to get the land put in a land trust with the Neighborhood Gardens Trust (NGT) to protect it from future development. In order to do that, we need the support of our local politicians to get the title transferred from the
City to the NGT.
What programs does Mill Creek Farm currently offer to the West Philadelphia community?
We offer educational field trips for school groups, professional groups, conferences, and tours. We have a high
school internship program through the Philadelphia Youth Network and an apprenticeship program. We host a
weekly after-school gardening club for students from Martha Washington Elementary School. We host youth
and other groups for community service projects and volunteer workdays. In addition, we host barbeques,
community gatherings, and educational workshops for neighbors and other community members.
Where does Mill Creek Farm’s funding come from?
Currently, we receive most of our funding as grants from local foundations, with significant contributions from
income from our produce sales and educational programming. To maintain our integrity as an access point for
healthy, fresh, affordable food in West Philadelphia, our diversified funding helps keep the price of our produce
low and allows us to donate some of our harvests.
Did you have to do soil testing?
In general, soil quality and health depend largely on prior land use. Our main concern was lead and other
heavy metals frequently found in urban soil. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society handled the initial testing
for our site and found because the land had been fallow for over 30 years, that there were zero-to-minimal
traces of any contamination. UMass and Penn State extension services both do soil testing and can advise
on what to test for. We test our soil annually by using an X-ray fluorescence analyzer to test for contaminants
and nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus.
Do you have a greenhouse?
We do not currently have a greenhouse, cold-frames, nor a hoop-house onsite. In the past, we have used the
greenhouse at University City High School in conjunction with the Urban Nutrition Initiative and most recently
the greenhouse at the ADS prison in North Philly through the City Harvest project.
What type of irrigation system do you use?
We use a drip system.
Do you have refrigeration onsite?
Yes! We acquired an amazing outdoor refrigeration unit in 2021.
What kind of facilities do you have onsite?
We have a covered sink and wash station. We have a variety of green stormwater infrastructures such as a
water catchment system, a composting toilet, a living roof, a rain garden and we are currently setting up a
We have a tool shed and oven constructed from cob* and reused materials, and decorated with a mosaic
of found materials. The cob walls were built over a six-week period in the spring of 2005 with the help of over
70 local volunteers, ranging in ages from 3 to 45.
*Cob is building material consisting of earth (clay and sand), straw, and water. It is similar to adobe, but used
wet instead of baked into bricks first. This gives it strength because it becomes all one piece and allows it to
be sculpted. Cob is great thermal mass, fireproof, resistant to seismic activity, and inexpensive – sometimes
even free! Cob structures, some dating back to the 11th century, can be found in a variety of climates around
the world. In Pennsylvania, one can only lay about one foot of cob a day to allow for the layers to dry.
This building also houses a BioLet composting toilet, purchased for us as part of our start-up support from
the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and the Philadelphia Water Department. We really like this model, as far
as store-bought models go. The composting toilet is a dry toilet with two chambers underneath the seat.
After each use one adds a scoop of dry material (we use a peat moss/sawdust mixture). With our usage,
it takes three to four months to fill one chamber. When the first chamber is full, it’s moved to the back and
when the second chamber is full we empty the material in the first chamber, which has broken down over
time, onto our healthy banana tree. FYI: In the global south many people use banana trees/groves to filter
toilets and greywater as bananas are incredibly good at breaking down organic materials.
The roof of the tool shed is a living roof or green roof. Green roofs can provide many benefits including
decreasing rainwater run-off during storms, increasing the energy efficiency of the building (heating and cooling),
increasing the oxygen in the atmosphere by providing more plants, attracting beneficial insects, and reducing
the urban heat island effect (concrete and black tar roofs like those popular in Philly absorb heat from the sun).
There are many designs for living roofs, depending on the structure of your building they can support varying
amounts of growth. All designs use somewhat of a “lasagna” technique–layering different roofing materials
and growing mediums. The growing medium of the one demonstrated at Mill Creek Farm is a mixture of
expanded slate and compost.
Where does your food go?
Most of our produce is sold directly to residents of the neighborhood at the farmstand we operate on our farm,
or at the farmer’s market two blocks away. Once a week we donate produce to church-based food cupboards
and we sometimes donate to a women’s shelter, all located in West Philly. We regularly sell produce to
Mariposa Food Co-op, and irregularly to several cafés in West Philly. We rarely sell outside of our
West Philadelphia community, which is our target.
We keep logs of the amount of produce donated throughout the season. In 2014 we harvested 5,300 lbs
of produce, donated 1,200 lbs, and sold over $10,000 within two miles of the farm.
What on earth is A Little Taste of Everything?
A Little Taste of Everything (ALTOE) is doing business as The Mill Creek Farm. ALTOE grew out of a youth-driven
project at University City High School in conjunction with the Urban Nutrition Initiative and received its non-profit status in 2005. ALTOE evolved from previous efforts to improve food security in West Philadelphia communities through school gardens and farmers’ markets.
How can I donate? Is my donation tax-deductible?
You can donate through our Paypal link on our website, send us a check in the mail, made out to "A Little
Taste of Everything/The Mill Creek Farm" addressed to:
The Mill Creek Farm PO BOX 28934, Philadelphia, PA 19151, or you can drop off a cash donation at the farm.
Your donation is 100% tax-deductible.
How else can I support the food justice movement that Mill Creek Farm promotes?
Support local agriculture and local economies in general and continue to educate yourself!
Please visit our links page for other resources.