Down on the Farm

Well, it has been quite a year at the JAM Farm.  As the growing season winds down, I am reflecting on the great progress we have made, and the success we have had in our first season as farmers. We started with a barren, litter-strewn scrap of vacant land, sandwiched between the back of our shop building and the SEPTA R2 Media/Elwyn line.

JAM farm before

JAM farm before

Starting in early spring, our team of cooks and dishwashers-turn farmers, led by Executive Sous-Chef Angelo Grasso, cleared out the debris, including old track sections, weeds, concrete slabs and other detritus, and fenced in a narrow spit of “farmland.”   Next, they created a flat surface on which they constructed 8′ x 4′ planting beds, raised up to waist height on stacked cinderblocks.


Beds finished, they turned to the herbs and vegetables they wanted to plant.  It was an eclectic assortment; softball sized, Cavaillon melons, lemon cucumbers, baby watermelons, dill, purple basil, variegated opal sage, zebra tomatoes, chickpeas, and more.  Determined to take no shortcuts, they started everything from seed, used one-ounce plastic souffle cups to sow their seed.  Some took, some died.  But enough germinated and survived replanting that by the late spring, we had our first, actual garden.



As spring turned into summer, the crew kept the garden watered using an elaborate string of hoses buried just below the surface of the dirt, in the beds.  The water came on and off with the aid of a timer, ensuring that all the young plants would survive even the hottest days.

As the summer progressed, we were able to start harvesting, using the purple basil for our basil-lemonade, the sweet, orange cherry tomatoes for crudite, and the long, fragrant lemongrass leaves in our meadow water.

photo 2




In an effort to practice what Maria Rodale, in her stirring book “Organic Manifesto,”  calls “regenerative” agriculture, we also started two huge compost bins on our little plot.  We have been collecting the melon skins, egg shells, corn husk and other food waste after our day’s prep is done, and combining it with dried leaves. This healthy mix cooks under black plastic tarps in the hot sun, with the end result being, that for next year, we will have all the compost we need, and will be able to replant our beds, using our own compost, without the need for added chemical fertilizers.


Now, as the growing season has started to wind down, and the weather cools, we are considering what worked well, and what changes are needed for next year.  We will surely plant more chocolate mint next year; that was delicious!  We will see if the fig trees we have just put in this month will last through the winter…let’s see if we are making fig tarts next year at this time!

2 thoughts on “Down on the Farm

  1. Carmen Luz Neyra Aguinaga

    Por lo que comenta fue un trabajo arduo, paciencia.y conocimiento cientifico, es un trabajo futurista en beneficio del ser humano alimentacion saludable, dew mucho provecho para una mejor calidad de vida, felicitaciones por convertir de un terreno con desechos en un valioso huerto regenerativo, Nuevamente Felicitaciones Chef Agricultor Cientifico ,estoy segura que la higuera va a sobre vivior el invierno porque es una planta muy noble y fuerte y podremos degustar unas ricas tartas de higos ,pero no tan pronto ,pero con restecto ala sabrosa menta chocolate SI, Sr. Chef Angelo Grasso lo que ud. esta haciendo con ayuda de su equipo es luchar contra el cancer “Alimentacion sana vida saludable” que Dipos los bendiga .

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