There is a stretch of land along Route 352 in Middletown Township, right before Elwyn Road that I’ve been wondering about for some time. I recently listed a property around the corner at 8 Woodbriar Drive, so I took a closer look and to my delight, discovered Hillside Farm, just one of the many great attributes of Middletown township.
Hillside Farm is a ten-acre, community-based farm, run under the direction of Greener Partners.The farm does not call attention to itself; it’s actually quite the opposite. Although the farm is on a long stretch of 352 with thousands of cars rushing past it each day, you won’t find a sign or entrance there. To get there, take 352 South of Route 1, make a left onto Elwyn Road towards the Elwyn Train station, another left into Elwyn’s campus, then follow the signs to the farm. If you don’t have the time, space or inclination to grow your own vegetables but like the idea of local and organic, Hillside Farm may have what you are looking for.
This produce found here is not like it’s pampered cousins–beautifully staged and gently misted in a display at The Fresh Market or Whole Foods (don’t get me wrong, I love both places for lots of reasons)– there will be no calligraphy beckoning you to buy. Just a sign that says “U-Pick” or “Eggplant,” for example. This is the real deal: this is produce you literally go in the field and pick yourself or select from a tub in the barn. There is alot to choose from: beans, tomatoes, peppers, onions, chard as well as sunflowers and zinnias to brighten your table. Flowers and vegetables displayed en masse in their natural environment is breathtaking.
With increased awareness about the downside of processed and genetically modified foods, more people are taking control over what they consume. As a result, community farms (CSAs) are popping up all over the country. A CSA is a partnership between the consumer and farmer where the consumer shares in the harvest for a “share” in the farm. Locally, the mission of Greener Partners is not only to grow vegetables, but also to educate adults and children about farming and the health and environmental benefits of organic and locally grown produce.
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Hillside Farm is in its fourth year in Media and serves about 250 share owners. Shares vary from full to medium, according to the amount of food you need. When I spoke to Justin Donaldson, manager of the farm, about why he chose to go into farming he said “I do it for a lot of reasons; I grew helping my family in the garden and think it’s important to bring farming back, not to mention the health and environmental benefits of organic farming.”
The biggest difference between conventional and organic produce is chemicals. If you’ve ever wondered why organic foods cost more than conventional food, the answer is in the weeds: instead of spraying crops with chemicals, organic farmers handle weeds with predator bugs, limited and approved sprays and the old fashioned way—they pull them.
Nobody knows that better than the farmers at Hillside Farm, who work about 60 hours a week. The day I visited Hillside, this devoted group of farmers were using “hula hoes” to clear the weeds starting up around a crop of celery. It was 90 degrees, felt like 12o, humidity was high and the sun was blazing. I was sweating just taking the pictures, but these guys have been at it for hours and were still smiling.
Being a part of a CSA, or even shopping at a farmer’s market, requires patience and planning. This is the opposite of a “convenience store.” It usually involves driving to an out of the way place, buying on a day or time that might not be perfect for your needs or schedule, or even picking the vegetables yourself. For the people that patronize the farm, however, this is a pleasurable activity, and an especially great experience to share with children. “An important distinction of the CSA model is that
members support the farm (signup and pay) before
the season begins to get the farm the money it needs to buy preseason
supplies,” added Donaldson.
I expected to find members from Media or Aston, but to my surprise, the first person I ran into was Ann, who drives from Radnor to pick up her weekly share at Hillside Farm. Radnor has lots of places to buy organic food, so I asked her why she comes all this way to buy vegetables. Ann likes the fact that the vegetables grown on the farm are completely organic. Plus, she has split her share with another couple so they alternate weeks in picking up vegetables.
If you are not an share-owner in Hillside Farm, but would like to meet the farmers or try out the produce, you can do so any Thursday at the Media Farmer’s Market or Wednesday at PRC’s Newtown Square Farmer’s Market (formerly the Edgmont Farmer’s Market). Starting this Friday, Hillside Farm will have vegetables for sale on Elwyn’s campus.
Hillside Farm hosts events and Lost Arts workshopsto educate community members about nutrition, healthy living and a host of home-scale sustainable practices such as composting and home food preservation. They also host a summer camp for kids – something to think about for next year!
If you live in Media, Aston, Brookhaven, Chester or Glen Mills, this farm is within your reach. Go for a visit, talk to the farmers and see what it’s all about!
Hillside Farm, 115 South New Middletown Rd.,Media, PA 19063. Phone:(412)310-0956
About Middletown Township: Situated one mile west of downtown Media, Middletown Township offers housing for sale in a wide price range, relatively low taxes. Rose Tree Media is the School District. As of this writing, there are 71 residential listings ranging from $64,900 (2BR Flat) to $799K (5BR Single), with the average price being $422K.
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About Me: I am an area resident and full-time real estate agent with Keller Williams Real Estate, serving Chester and Delaware counties with expertise in Media, West Chester and Glen Mills. I love to photograph landscapes, architecture and areas of natural beauty while providing insight into the community. If you would like to schedule a buyer or seller consultation with me or just learn more about the market, please feel free to contact me on my cell at 484-883-8231 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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I love the compost sign!
Thank you Tammy!
nicely done article, Pam – there are such great places to explore in your area!!
Thank you as always, Hannah!
This is a wonderful writeup. I have a share at the farm this year and I totally love the experience.
Hi Linda, I meant to reply to you earlier. Thank you for your nice feedback and I’m glad you had a great experience at the farm!