Awbury Tours Put New Members’ Boots on Ag Village Grounds

Jeannie Gerth, for the Shuttle

Perhaps you were one of the 60 or so new members who joined me on one of four Saturdays this past growing season for an orientation tour of Awbury Arboretum and an introduction to the Weavers Way partners and farm there. Many members on the tours had not been to Awbury before. It’s a busy place on Saturday mornings, spring through fall, when the weather is fair. 

We’d meet at the Ardleigh Street entrance to the Agricultural Village on the northwest side of Washington Lane. To the left, we’d pass the spot where the Awbury Community Garden Club grows fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Fifty feet up the path, in a clearing in front of the farm kitchen and classroom building, Petra would welcome us with Awbury information and event flyers, and introduce us to Awbury’s brood of hens. The farm kitchen and classroom building are where the Talking Stick Learning Center for Homeschool Youth meet, where Awbury’s Teen Leadership Corps gathers to make and package home-grown products from their gardens on the property, and where educational events and workshops take place. We’d pass the apiary, dye garden, pollinator garden and greenhouses, and stop up the path to meet the goats and learn about the food forest.

One Saturday, Karen Krivit of the Philly Goat Project introduced us to the work they are doing with the help of many volunteers and Co-op working members. Across from the goat yard, Michael from the Philadelphia Orchard Project and Jean, one of the Awbury Food Forest stewards, talked with us about the layers and ecological functions of a food forest and the many edible and medicinal flora to be found there. Stewards and working members busied themselves with weeding, thinning, transplanting, mulching, marking, and harvesting herbs and ripe fruit to take home. Manager Alessandro Ascherio showed us around the Mort Brooks Memorial Farm and talked about what was growing in the fields, recent projects and experiments. In one small patch, he had grown and harvested hundreds of pounds of watermelons planted with pole beans that he left behind to feed the soil. Marigolds were planted for protection from insect damage.

Across Washington Lane, we’d enter the historic landscape side of the arboretum. We passed the wetland, meadow, and some of the heritage trees up to the Francis Cope House, which was built in 1854. My favorite and last stop on the tours was the Secret Garden/Adventure Woods, an enchanting walled garden with natural materials play spaces. Along the way, we picked, tasted, and talked about wild edible and medicinal plants.

Co-op member orientation tours will resume in the spring. Until then, enjoy all the wonders of winter!