Monday, April 4, 2011

Soil Kitchen

Soil Kitchen art project

While on a stroll down our street last week I came across what looked like just another new hipster food joint. Restaurants seem to be popping up like spring daisies in our Fishtown/Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philadelphia, and sometimes I don't even notice.

But this one caught my attention.

A quick wander inside brought me through a colorful, classroom-like environment, with diagrammed chalkboard walls and racks made to hold test tubes and other science related items. There I met a couple of young artists who gave me the scoop.

Learning area.
Soil Kitchen, located on the corner of Second and Girard, is actually not the latest Philly diner, but a remarkable art project, environmental advocacy center, and, well, soup kitchen - at least until Wednesday. It's the first temporary public art project to be commissioned by the City of Philadelphia’s innovative Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy. In fact, the city’s own Mayor Michael A. Nutter was on hand on opening day April 1st.

Soil Kitchen's concept is simple: Philadelphians can enjoy free soup made from locally-sourced food while they wait the twenty minutes it takes to test the soil samples they bring from their neighborhoods. The project is being executed by the artist group FutureFarmers using a grant from the William Penn Foundation.

Image via Wikipedia
The project was planned to coincide with the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Brownfields Conference that will run April 3rd through the 5th at the Philadelphia Convention Center.

Brownfields essentially are lands that have been previously contaminated by industry, and are being detoxified for reuse. The EPA has been involved in a longstanding, comprehensive effort with communities to promote and foster brownfield redevelopment. The Liberty Lands park, only blocks away from Soil Kitchen, is a good example of this partnership. (See the prior post The Good Lands of Liberty for more information).

The windmill-powered building will house the project until April 6th and Soil Kitchen will offer cooking lessons plus free workshops on wind turbine construction, urban agriculture, soil remediation, composting as well as lectures by soil scientists. In addition, they will be creating a Philadelphia brownfields map and soil archive.--D.A. DeMers.

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