Funds Sought to Preserve Germantown Garden

Ellen Wert, for the Shuttle

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Gardeners at the Old Tennis Court Farm in Germantown, shut down since October 2015, are facing an October deadline for trying to raise funds to purchase the property.

The 50-plot community garden at 5407 Wissahickon Ave., formerly Germantown Friends School’s tennis courts, was a thriving operation for six years, after its founding by members of the Germantown Monthly Meeting and other community members. Adjacent to Cloverly Park at the corner of Wissahickon and School House Lane (and, like the park, once part of the Edward White Clark estate), OTCF featured a solar-powered water pump and eight plots we dedicated for community service. It provided thousands of pounds of produce for local food-security programs such as Whosoever Gospel Mission, as well as neighbors in need. 

But in 2015, liability concerns prompted GFS to sell the land. Although initially daunted by the price, $277,000 with closing and other related costs, the gardeners, along with members of the Friends of Cloverly Park, were inspired by an article by a January 2016 Shuttle article (“Safeguarding Urban Agriculture,” by William Hengst). A series of conversations and calls with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation’s FarmPhilly and Neighborhood Gardens Trust, featured in the article, led the OTCF gardeners to contact Natural Lands Trust, which agreed to help the group try to purchase the land and turn it over to the community as productive green space. 

With formal go-ahead from GFS in mid-June, the community has until Oct. 31 to raise the purchase price. Natural Lands Trust is pursuing public funding for part of the money, and the gardeners, partnering with the Friends of Cloverly Park, are trying to raise the rest.

Those who would like to support the Old Tennis Court Farm Protection Project can make a tax-deductible donation through Germantown United CDC, which is serving as the project’s fiscal sponsor.