One-acre plot on township property to be converted into community food source03/23/2021 03:21PM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
On Nov. 7, 2018, the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors announced that the township had completed the purchase of the Spar Hill Farm, a 103-acre property at the confluence of Burnt Mill, Center Mill and Old Kennett roads.
At their online meeting on March 17, the board voted to donate one of those acres back, for the best of reasons.
By a 3-0 vote, the board enthusiastically approved a request by Emergent Abundance Farming Collective (EAFC) to convert one acre of the property to a volunteer-based farm for EAFC to grow, harvest and distribute organic vegetables to Kennett Area Community Service (KACS) and other food banks that support community members who are facing food insecurity.
Cultivation of the one-acre plot will begin soon, and food distribution is expected to reach KACS and other food banks by the summer.
Julia Smagorinsky of EAFC said that cultivating a one-acre farm at Spar Hill dovetails with the organization’s mission to create an abundance of food and ecological habitat and to share food, knowledge, skill, and access to land with the local community of Kennett Township.
EAFC has already made its mark as a local food resource. In 2020, as COVID-19 stifled the ability of some in the community to get access to healthy food, the group began to grow vegetables, berries, herbs and medicinals on a one-acre plot on a private property, which led to weekly donations to the Kennett Food Cupboard at KACS, Food For All in Wilmington and to certain recipients in Philadelphia.
“Throughout all of this, I have been able to mentor people to come in no matte what skill level they have to share my skills, knowledge and ideas on how we can grow more ecologically,” said Smagorinsky, who has an extensive background in agriculture. “Because of this momentum, we have been attracting more people who would like to join us.”
EAFC’s work at Spar Hill promises to be far more complex in its application than merely planting seeds. Smagorinsky will teach volunteers the essential responsibilities of natural and organic farming; how to experiment with carbon-sink farming methods; and the importance of how permaculture principles guide the farm’s design, decision making process and implementation.
Eventually, Smagorinsky envisions the project expanding off of the one-acre garden to include the integration of small livestock such as rabbits, ducks, and chickens in another parcel of the farm; a U-Pick berries and fruit area for the general public; a pastoral orchard; a greenhouse that would enable the growing season to extend through the winter months; and the introduction of additional livestock like sheep, goats and pigs.
“We are also creating beautiful spaces for our community that will welcome all kids of people – especially children,” Smagorinsky said. “We’re hoping in the future to include natural playgrounds and hide-outs, in order to make the outdoors attractive for children, and allow them to get their hands in the soil.”
‘If you raise the water, all of the ships will rise together’
Leah Reynolds, the executive director for KACS, said the start of the EAFC garden at Spar Hill is coming at a crucial time for the many community members who are placing more reliance on the agency for essential services like food and shelter. She said 17,000 people have visited the food pantry this year, and KACS has helped to stabilize 35 households in the Kennett area.
“I’m sure I’m not the only one listening to this presentation that can see the on-going, extensive benefits that a project like this brings to a community,” she said. “We hear the phrase, ‘If you raise the water, all of the ships will rise together.’ This is truly that; the land, the food, the people coming together, our natural world, our local community, this region, the ability to be outside, to see things grow and be a part of that, and to benefit from that.
“In KACS’ trajectory, food is medicine, and the need hasn’t slowed down,” Reynolds added. “We need all the help we can get. We need good partners like this township in order for us to deeply root ourselves in the health and well-being of the whole township.”
Under the terms of the agreement with the township, EAFC will not be permitted to use the buildings on the farm, due to structural concerns. Although the township will not provide any monetary support, it will be directing its Public Works Department to provide moderate mowing services around the garden, and has also negotiated with the Longwood Fire Company to donate water for the farm.
During negotiations for its $3.2 million purchase of the Spar Hill property – of which $1 million was in grant funding from Mt. Cuba -- the township worked in collaborative effort with the Land Conservation Advisory Committee (LCAC) and The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County (TLC). The key mission in the purchase was three-fold: to save a sizable portion of township property from development; to preserve the land as open space; and to connect residents to other natural areas in the township, through the use of a trail network.
Virtual tour for Kennett Library and Resource Center
In other township business, Collis Townsend, a trustee with the Kennett Library Board of Directors, introduced a seven-minute video that provides a virtual tour of the new Kennett Library and Resource Center, which is anticipated to break ground on July 23, 2021 and be completed by Dec. 30, 2022. The video, entitled “Imagine a Place,” is available for viewing on the library’s website: www.kennettlibrary.org.
To date, Townsend said the capital campaign has raised more than $9 million in pledges – as well as $1 million in soft pledges -- toward the estimated $18 million cost to construct the new facility.
“There has been some tremendous stewardship in this whole process,” Townsend said. “People are paying attention both to design and engineering, as well as maintaining all of the prior capital campaign contributions. There is a great Board of Trustees who is very involved in making sure that this gets done and done right. That should give people the assurance to give us the money to finish the project off.”
To learn more about the campaign, visit http://campaign4kennettlibrary.org.
After a dispute at the last board meeting held on March 3 that led to a delay, the board voted to approve a second escrow payment in the amount of $1,204,077.90 to HREG Kennett Square, LLC, as per its agreement to site improvements made at The Flats at Kennett.
The issue at the last meeting was whether or not the developer made significant enough progress on the trail from the apartment complex to Anson B. Nixon Park.
“We have had substantive discussions with the counsel and the developer for the Flats, and we are game planning together -- including potentially involving the Kennett Township Trails Consultants – to examine how this trail can be accomplished,” said township Manager Eden Ratliff. “We certainly appreciate how receptive the developers and their counsel have been to the concerns of the board at the township on this.
“There are certainly hurdles and barriers that we need to overcome, but they remain committed to working with the township to see this executed.”
Supervisor Scudder Stevens, who during the board’s March 3 meeting expressed dissatisfaction with the degree of work the developer had done to connect the complex to the park, expressed his satisfaction that his concerns are being met.
“I am satisfied that the builders have heard us, and that
they are anxious to work with us in good faith to overcome some of the concerns
that were raised at our last meeting,” he said.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].