Show off your garden on the South Philly Garden Tour!

Hello South Philadelphia gardeners! You've been working hard this spring, digging in the dirt of your planters, pots, raised beds, community garden plots...Now it's time to show off all the fruits (and vegetables, and herbs, and flowers, and...) of your labors! For the third year in a row, the South Philly Food Co-op invites you to exhibit your garden! The Co-op is organizing its Third Annual South Philadelphia Garden Tour and we would love to have your participation. Due to growing turn-out and garden participation, we've decided to focus on the south Broad Street corridor, showcasing home gardens from Washington to Snyder, 11th-17th street for this year's tour. Check out photos of last year's tour here. For those who are not familiar with the Co-op, our mission is to open a member-owned cooperative grocery store that makes good  food available at a fair price to all residents of South Philadelphia, while empowering the local community through sustainable practices, food-centric education, outreach, and community building. We are 470 members strong, and the Garden Tour is our biggest fundraiser of the year to help us raise the funds for opening our grocery store (we're looking for locations now!). The Garden Tour will be a self-guided ticketed event, featuring private home gardens throughout South Philadelphia. The tour date is set for Saturday, September 7th with gardens open from 1pm to 5pm and has a rain date of Sunday September 8th. If you'd like to participate and show off all the beauty that the hard working and loving green thumbs of you and neighbors have created please submit the following information to by July 1, 2013: 1. a brief description of your garden (as you would like it to be published in the pamphlet). Please limit the description to 50-75 words. 2. an interesting fact about your garden (i.e. how it all started, a unique plant you are growing, an interesting technique you are using to grow, etc.) 3. a photo or two- be proud! We'll be hosting a voluntary pre-tour meet-up on Tuesday August 20th at 7pm to answer any questions, distribute information, discuss day-of details, and get you connected with fellow home garden enthusiasts! To learn more about the South Philly Food Co-op, please visit our website and Facebook page. Thank you in advance! We really look forward to your participation.

Take a look "behind the scenes" at the Co-op

As we've been doing for a few months now, we want to share our monthly committee reports with our membership and those who are thinking of becoming members. We have several active committees staffed by dedicated, hard-working volunteers whose one goal is get this Co-op built. As you can see from the reports below, we've all been pretty busy trying to accomplish that goal. But we need help. If you're a member who wants to make a HUGE difference in how fast we can get to the ribbon cutting for the Co-op, please consider volunteering to serve on one of these committees. The report below - which was available in hard copy at our Spring General Membership Meeting - will help you determine which activities fit with your skill set or are among skills that you're hoping to learn. (You can also download the report here.) May 2013 Committee Updates Submitted to the general membership on 5/17/13 Treasury (Jay Tarlecki)
  • Statement of Activities and Statement of Financial Position and bank reconciliation submitted to the board on a monthly basis.
  • Still awaiting final CPA approval of FY13 final numbers
  • Reviewed outstanding member equity numbers as briefly discussed in April board meeting.  Pledged but not received for all calendar years = $26,647. Of that total, $5,050 is currently past due.


  • Develop new bank deposit form, in progress
  • Treasurer playbook
  • Looking for CPA to handle taxes moving forward, no luck finding one that handles co-op so far
Bookkeeping (Molly Peterman)
  • Move from member records in excel to QuickBooks for accounting and tracking needs
    • Begin using QuickBooks at start of FY14 - Not implemented
    •  Begin transition of past FYs to QuickBooks on 6/1/13 after FY13 is officially closed out- Soliciting quotes for support in implementing QB
  • Provide reliable and accurate financial stewardship to people who have trusted us with their money records are reconciled
  • Written policy and procedure manual for member tracking, CRM entry, and bookkeeping practices. DEADLINE TBD based on CRM selection Pending
  • Monthly reconciliation for banking Records reconciled as of 5/16. Current active member count is 466 (members in good standing = 411 and equity past-due = 55). Cash on hand = $67,602. (excluding $1,750 transferred to Fair Food account). Non-equity cash = $1,270.
  • CRM database and QuickBooks to be updated twice a month. Done
  • Membership cards and welcome letters to be mailed once a month mailed at least once every calendar month
  • Assist with development and conversion to the Co-op’s CRM system. Pending
  • Distribute membership certificate shares at each general meeting list provided for 5/19 meeting
Business Outreach (Dana Mitchell) Business Outreach successfully rounded up some sweet swag for the 100 in 75 campaign, thank you to all who helped in that endeavor! Please welcome The Yoga Garden, our newest Shop South Philly Partner (#22). BO responded to inquiries and contacted Shot Tower Coffee, Blackbird Pizza, and Dig Yoga about SSP and are awaiting their reply.  BO contacted Girls Can Tell regarding their new company Occassionette, and whether changes to the SSP page needed to be made. BO received a request to change the offer for Wake Up Yoga and has submitted it to marketing/communications. If anyone knows of a business that may be interested in participating in SSP, please email so BO can contact them. Finally, BO will be focusing on recruiting business sponsorships for the Garden Tour and other upcoming events. Any help with recruiting sponsors will be greatly appreciated! Grants (Maria Sourbeer (formerly Camoratto)) CCMA application was approved and we were awarded two scholarships to the Austin conference June 6 - 8. TRF, Community Design Collaborative and Clif Family Foundation applications are still pending response. We worked to get the Philadelphia Activity Fund grant application submitted this month and we're pending response.  Last year's Philadelphia Activities Fund report due in June 2013; working with Programs and Events to submit final report.  We continue to research and update our database. On our radar are: Philadelphia Foundation which has a rolling application for technical assistance, NIFA, Del. Valley Grant Makers, Bank of America Foundation, Wallace Center and Impact 100. IT Committee (Melanie Myers) The committee has moved forward with the migration of our existing website to NationBuilder. Veracity has access to our website and design files, and they will be working on the site design over the next two weeks.  At that point they will be ready to show us the design and start discussing moving our data on the site. The new site won't go live until we are done with everything, therefore we keep our current site live until then.  Melanie sent the invoice to Jay to see if the form needs to be filled out for payment. Leadership (Aubrey Jones) Prepared for 5/19 board elections and will be developing more comprehensive recruitment and succession planning for future. Legal (Josh Richards) The legal committee has had no substantive tasks this month, but is working to organize and begin work with the Member Loan Committee. The first Member Loan Committee meeting was rescheduled to May 21. Marketing and Communication (Dan Pohlig) The Marketing and Communications Committee is in the process of completing a revised draft of messaging documents to be used by senior volunteers and members of the Speakers Bureau. The Committee just completed the design of promotional posters that use testimonials from current members to tell several stories about why people have chosen to join the Co-op. Posters are in final QC and will be sent to print by end of May. The Committee has also put forward its chair to be liaison to the working group that is executing the transition of the website to the Nation Builder platform. Finally, the Committee has begun a push for new volunteers. The chair has received a set of contact information from survey respondents who indicated interest in doing communications work for the Co-op. The Marketing and Communications Committee is looking for a few of our member-owners to step up and help out with our efforts to spread the word about the Co-op to new people and create compelling messaging that convinces those who are aware of us to take the next step and join. If you can string together a few sentences about what made you want to join the Co-op and have an idea of what might make others want to join, then this is the committee for you! Specific tasks include: posting to our Facebook page and Twitter account, drafting press releases and media advisories, advising other committees on messaging and language for external communications and creating promotional materials.  If interested in helping out, the next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 6:30pm.  Or email Membership (Cassie Plummer) The Membership Committee oversees co-op member-owner relationships. We manage volunteers, new member-owner welcomes, membership account tracking and a whole lot more! We’re a behind the scenes group that collaborates with Programs and Events Committee and the Marketing and Communications committee to develop and execute new member recruitment initiatives. We are currently working on developing the next stage of recruitment tactics and volunteer program development. In the upcoming months, we plan to mobilize our current members to recruit new Co-op members – we want you to host Eat and Greet House Parties, invite us to your block party, and participate in our training for neighborhood outreach (coming soon). We are also looking to use some new database technology to help us target highly engaged not-yet members, people newly added to mailing list, and neighborhood networks. We could use help in the following areas:
  • volunteer management (you can do this all by email)
  • neighborhood outreach (we’ll provide the training!)
  • hosting Eat and Greet Potluck dinners or other creative events for your neighborhood/friend network
Please come join us and help us reach our next membership goal! Operations Committee (Alison Fritz) Operations continues to work on the business plan with CDS consultant Mel Braverman.  We have all of the components and are going to be doing a major edit over the next two weeks.  The pro forma is a work in progress and numbers are adjusted regularly as new information is available.  Operations is working closely with Real Estate and will update the financial with site specific numbers as we continue to vet potential locations.  Upcoming work includes: 1.)developing programing model for the Co-op (ie. What products and services will we offer/will we have room for in the proposed 3,000sqft retail space), 2.) guidelines for electronic documentation storage, 3.) a primer on the Co-op’s sources and uses so committee members understand the basics. Operations also oversees outreach to potential lenders; Alison and Maria will meet with representatives from LEAF and NCDF at the CCMA conference in Austen June 6 – 8.  Plan to approach Philadelphia based lenders is in process and some initial contacts have been made. Programs and Events   (Leigh Goldenberg) Programs and Events wrapped up a busy spring season with a celebration of our 75 Members in 75 Days campaign at Fountain Porter. We welcomed nearly 40 guests and gave away prizes from our generous Shop South Philly Partners. Last week, we took a small group on a tour of Mariposa Co-op and hope to continue tours of local Co-ops throughout the summer and fall in tandem with the Real Estate Committee. In June, the committee has scheduled two free events - a pallet gardening workshop at South Philly High School and a happy hour at Underdogs, sponsored by Victory Brewing Company. The committee's focus is turning to the 3rd Annual South Philadelphia Garden Tour on Saturday, September 7. The tour will focus on Broad Street and surrounding blocks. In the coming month, they will focus on securing gardens to participate and local businesses to sponsor the event. Volunteers are welcome to assist in this event, the Co-op's largest fundraiser of the year. Real Estate (Megan Kiesel) The real estate committee has narrowed down our real estate agent search to two agents. We interviewed both by phone and in person. We are currently investigating a couple of opportunities and getting our pro forma and business plan finalized before we make a final decision on which agent should represent us. In the meantime we continue to compile a list of potential spaces and have two member real estate agents who will help us to schedule visits. We worked with the grants committee to submit an application for the Community Design Collaborative and participated in a follow up meeting. We expect to hear an update shortly. Speakers Bureau (Katy Travaline) The Speakers Bureau has presented at a total of 5 events in 2013 and has been helping to coordinate speakers for Co-op House Parties and other events, which are not included in this total. The Bureau coordinated with the Marketing and Communications Committee on updating the talking points and materials to be used at speaking events on April 24.  The Speakers Bureau outreach binders will now be updated once the talking points are finalized. The goals for May and June are as follows: We are actively seeking more speaking opportunities and more speakers. All suggestions and volunteers are welcome. Toward this goal, the following steps have been taken: 1) a number of civic organizations and community contacts (four, at the time of this committee report) have been contacted to schedule speaking events; 2) current members of the Speakers Bureau have been contacted to encourage them to review the list of potential speaking engagements and make recommendations for additions as well as to reach out to organizations to schedule events themselves; 3) a few potential speaking events have been added to the list; and 4) plans have been made to recruit speakers at the General Membership Meeting on May 19, 2013. We will also plan to hold a Speakers Training Workshop. Details to follow.

Happy Hour at Underdogs -- Plus, a Contest

Thursday June 13th, 2013, 5:30-8:30p Underdogs, 1205 S. 9th Street Join the Co-op for happy hour and amazing hot dogs at Underdogs! A special garden-themed hot dog--named in honor of the Co-op--will be a featured special. Plus, free beer, thanks to Victory Brewing Company! It is BYOHD (Buy Your Own Hot Dog), though. Help us out by coming up with a great name for our garden-themed dog. We'll be accepting submissions via Facebook starting June 1 and closing June 8. The top 5 names, as chosen by the same supercomputer that powers the Hubble Telescope, will be announced on Facebook on June 10. We'll count "likes" to crown the winner. Contest will close on June 11. After all that you'll need a beer and a hot dog! The winning name will be given to the hot dog at the Happy Hour on June 13. And the person that named the winning dog will receive free hot dogs for themselves and their friends at the Happy Hour, June 13 from 5:3-8:30pm (Limit $25 value of hot dogs)    

The results are in: Board Elections

At last night's meeting of the South Philly Food Co-op Board of Directors, the directors who were elected at the Spring General Membership meeting on May 19, 2013 began their two-year term which will end at the Spring General Membership Meeting in 2015. The following members were elected to serve in that position:
  • Maria Sourbeer (née Camoratto)
  • Mary Beth Hertz
  • Joseph Marino
  • Cassie Plummer
  • John Raezer
These five join Alison Fritz, Jay Tarlecki, Josh Richards, Julia Koprak, and Anna Ship on the South Philly Food Co-op Board of Directors. Do you have questions or comments for any of the board members? Email

Sarah's Garden: Exciting News!

Well, I've finally done it.  I went and spent $30 on this "snip and drip" irrigation system:

black hose is the soaker hose

Wow!!  I've never done this before because I've never uh had a working hose outside.  That's right, for 2+ years I watered all my plants with two watering cans filled up at my kitchen sink multiple times a day (except for that short period when I thought the outside water line in our old house was working but then it turned out it was cracked and flooding our neighbors' basements.  Sorry!)  Just having a hose was already pretty sweet, but then my annual freak out about not being able to water my plants while I'm at work - "If they're drying out during the day in early May what's going to happen in July and August??" - I realized that I could just order one of these do-it-yourself irrigation kits.  So I did!

raspberries are going to be so happy

I'm not going to say too much about it because if you Google "snip and drip irrigation" you'll get tons of reviews of various products that are essentially just a length of black soaker hose and green regular hose that you connect via little black clips.  There's another black clip for the end and you attach it to your hose with yet another black clip, and that was the only tricky part until I realized I was trying to connect them backwards.  But there are lots of online videos to help you with that one.  And then you turn on the water and watch the soaker hose soak the dirt around it - avoiding all the foliage!! - and breathe a big sigh of relief.  Finally!

raised bed with irrigation

So here's the obvious problem:  it's ugly.  I figure in about a month the plants will be so big that they'll completely cover the soaker hose and probably even the regular hose connector sections.  But what to do until then??  Well, I've been thinking about drilling holes into the raised bed so that you don't see the hose sticking out on either end.  I also need to get some of those metal clips that hold hoses down in the dirt because I think that will make them less visible too.  Ultimately, though, this is still kind of a trial run:  I'm not going to drill any holes until I'm totally satisfied that the plants are getting enough water.  The good thing about this system is that it comes with 50' of soaker hose and 25' of regular hose and you just cut them to whatever length you need.  You can also get a timer so that everything gets watered automatically!  But I'm not ready for that level of sophistication quite yet.

I'm mostly excited about the fact that I can water my plants without getting water on the leaves.  When you water at night, getting water on the leaves is no problem because it has all night to evaporate.  But when you water in the morning a lot of times droplets of water are still on the plant leaves when the sun hits them and that leads to scorching, like in this picture:

see the white on some of the leaves in the background - that's from the sun burning off water that was on the leaves

The leaf scorching isn't really a big deal - as long as it's only a few leaves on each plant the plant's going to be fine and it doesn't affect the fruit at all.  But it is kind of ugly and watering this raised bed with the hose it was impossible not to get water on everything:  dirt, leaves, the wall behind it, me, my cat... you get the picture.

But really, the best thing about this is that my plants will get a steady stream of water which is best for vegetables.  It's so hard to keep pots watered in the middle of the summer - I've been known to run home on my lunch break to water - and uneven watering leads to cracking and other vegetable problems.  So now with my raised bed and irrigation system I'm all ready for summer!  Let's go, veggies.

Co-ops helping co-ops and how that helps OUR co-op

A few days ago, the website Generocity posted a great write-up of a recent meeting of Philly-area co-ops who are coming together to forge partnership and leverage their collective strength in the service of making operational and marketing improvements. As someone who has been working on the marketing of the South Philly Food Co-op, I was particularly encouraged by this piece:
On the marketing end, Weavers Way, Swarthmore and potentially Creekside will be setting up kiosks at WXPN’s Xponential Festival on the Camden Waterfront. They will be clustered in an area called “Co-op Row” and will likely share staff and resources throughout the event. The possibility of collectively buying ad-space on WHYY was also discussed as a way to market for the individual stores and to draw attention to co-ops generally.
This is exciting stuff for us in that any effort made by the region's co-ops to create awareness of the co-op model will help our efforts to attract members. This kind of work will go a long way of moving our target population/geography from "nothing" to "awareness." And as we've seen during this whole process that has helped us get 464 member-owners, once people hear about the Co-op and get an idea of what the cooperative form of ownership is all about, it doesn't take much more to get them to be members. Great news! We look forward to seeing you at our Spring General Membership meeting on May 19.

Sarah's Garden: May Showers

Well the raised bed vegetables had a very hot and sunny first few days but thanks to the rain earlier this week they seem to be doing just fine: