Let’s make Philadelphia a pedestrian paradise
Black brewers blaze a trail
SEPTEMBER 2020 / ISSUE 136 / GRIDPHILLY.COM
T O W A R D A S U S TA I N A B L E P H I L A D E L P H I A
Aminata Sandra Calhoun creates an oasis for people and pollinators alike
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Jeremiah Jordan Philadelphia, PA jeremiahfjordan.com @jfrancisdesigns & @confettipaint TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF Parallel to working in the culinary world for over a decade, I’ve invariably found time to commit to making. I don’t have a traditional background in fine art, but I began my artistic practice with painting when I was 16. Over the years I studied independently through books, visits to museums, interacting with community and by practicing almost every day. WHAT DO YOU MAKE? I work in a variety of forms, including painting, sculpture, and wearables/jewelry. WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON? I am currently working on an earring line that I’ve been developing called Confetti. The earrings are handcrafted with mixed media and a variety of traditional and digital tools. WHAT’S THE HARDEST PART? Developing an artistic language that translates to a wide, diverse audience. WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS? I hope to access new and varied avenues to share and distribute my pieces. I also aspire to continue growing in a creative, collaborative community.
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EDI TO R ’S NOTES
Against The Odds
publisher Alex Mulcahy managing editor Alexandra W. Jones associate editor Timothy Mulcahy copy editor David Jack Daniels art director Michael Wohlberg writers Bernard Brown Francesca Furey Constance Garcia-Barrio Siobhan Gleason Alexandra Jones Randy LoBasso Aaron Salsbury Lois Volta Jaclyn Zeal photographers Drew Dennis Milton Lindsay Rachael Warriner illustrators Sean Rynkewicz Lois Volta published by Red Flag Media 1032 Arch Street, 3rd Floor Philadelphia, PA 19107 215.625.9850 G R I D P H I L LY. C O M
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began to give him more responsibilities. He eventually became president of the company. “One of the challenges and, and I take this seriously, with being one of the few African Americans given the opportunities that I have been given in this industry is that I have to speak on behalf of those that did not get the opportunity that I have. I have to speak on behalf of the communities that we serve,” Warfield said in a video interview published by The HistoryMakers. “My connection to Ed Bradley,” says Warfield, “is as an African American consuming news as I did since I was in the media business. There were not a lot of individuals that looked like me on television, in the ’70s, the ’80s, the ’90s. It’s a lot more open today than it was during those years.” Warfield leaves and I’m on the porch of Calhoun’s house, just three doors down from the pollinator garden and the Ed Bradley mural. The microphone is off and we are looking around at the neighborhood. She moved back into the house, her childhood home, in 2016, and she wants to restore it to its former beauty and dignity. But as we talk, she confesses to a weariness. She looks at the litter, the weeds, the homes in disrepair, and she despairs that she does not have as much community buy-in as she needs to transform the neighborhood. She’s coined a phrase, an acronym, for how she is feeling: EDD, Environmental Distraught Depression. Yet she soldiers on. The work that she is doing against all odds is, in my opinion, heroic. There needs to be beauty, and opportunity, for all, and until there is, we celebrate the slivers of hope where we find them, and we commit to building upon them.
ALEX MULCAHY Editor-in-Chief email@example.com COV E R P HOTO BY D RE W DENNI S
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n the corner of Wyalusing and Belmont avenues, there is an oasis. On a lot where two row homes were left to crumble for almost 50 years, is a small field of grass. In the corner, there’s an explosion of colors, a pollinator garden installed with the help of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. Thanks to the delirious bees, it’s literally buzzing with potential. Towering above it all is a massive mural of Philadelphia native Ed Bradley, the award-winning journalist best known for his work with CBS News and “60 Minutes,” and as an African American who succeeded during a time when the odds against him were overwhelming. I’m interviewing Aminata Sandra Calhoun, the tenacious woman whose vision and determination shaped this peaceful yet lively landscape, for a video segment, when I notice a man snapping photos of the mural. What brings him here? I approach cautiously, as one does in 2020, mask on and clutching hand sanitizer. I ask the older gentleman, “Would you submit to a brief interview?” Graciously, he agrees. In his retirement, he is beginning a new project, photographing murals throughout Philadelphia. He lives in Newtown Square, and the Ed Bradley mural was the first one on his list. Like Ed Bradley, it turns out the hobbyist photographer, Charles M. Warfield, Jr., had an impressive career in media, culminating in his 2015 induction in the New York State Broadcasting Hall of Fame. He worked for over a decade for the Inner City Broadcasting Corporation (ICBC), which largely because of his financial engineering, became one of the first Black-owned radio conglomerates in the country. The owner of ICBC, Percy Sutton, was a Freedom Rider, Malcolm X’s lawyer, a mayoral candidate in New York City (he lost to Ed Koch) and the owner of the Apollo Theater. Sutton saw potential in Warfield, who had graduated with a degree in accounting, beyond keeping track of debits and credits, and
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How can I show consideration to sanitation workers?
he first people who see our dirt, mess and trash are cleaning professionals and sanitation workers. They know more about you than most of your close friends. These workers see your choices: your spending patterns, how environmentally friendly you are, and more than that, they know your habits. They know the good ones, which they are thankful for, and the bad ones, which they are not. I recently read an article about Terrill Haigler (@_yafavtrashman), a Philadelphia sanitation worker who is bringing awareness to Philadelphia residents about how they can support sanitation workers. Small things like tying together cardboard pieces and not overstuffing bags can have a positive impact on how efficient a sanitation worker can be. A lot of the time, when there is change happening in our lives, our messy habits are magnified. We are seen by sanitation workers, and now is a good time to start reducing the amount of trash that comes out of our homes. There are real people who are cleaning up our messes. Leave a cold bottle of water, tip them or thank them for their work. In a work environment where multiple sanitation workers have tested positive for COVID-19, it is important to remember the conditions under which our sanitation workers are working. It’s common decency to show your gratitude and to put a face to the person who magically makes your trash disappear. When my business partner Jessica and I decided to bring our eco-friendly cleaning company to a freeze, it was because we be4
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lieve that the work we once did is now considered hazardous work. Cleaning people’s homes, in closed spaces, is dangerous knowing what we know about how COVID-19 spreads. We were not prepared for this type of shift and we reconsidered the role we can play in helping people clean up. We decided that we were going to teach people how to do it for themselves. What is seemingly a messy bedroom or a poorly functioning common space becomes a treasure trove for personal awareness and growth, but are people ready to take care of their own mess? No one dreams of a messy life, but no one
should be waited on hand and foot. Karma can only count for so much. What I am asking is: How can you take ownership of what is right in front of you and can you come up with a strategy for tackling the problem? I know that we live very busy lives, even amidst a pandemic. I have no desire to eliminate the need for cleaning professionals by teaching everyone how to do things for themselves, but I do think we can learn a lot from how we value domestic and sanitation workers as we take on a new type of personal responsibility. For instance, anyone (pre- or postCOVID) should make sure that their home is tidy, laundry is put away, dishes are done and trash is managed before they have a cleaning professional in their house. It’s respectful. No one should have to pick up your soiled underwear off the floor, throw away your old takeout containers, or do your dirty dishes. Cleaning professionals are already wiping the urine off your bathroom floor, the least you can do is notice, and then address, how messy you’ve become. The same type of personal management applies for when you put your trash out at the curb. Do you expect someone to clean up a pile of your trash that was scattered over the sidewalk because you were too lazy
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TH E VO LTA WAY
IL LUSTRATIO N BY LO I S VOLTA
to properly bag it up and secure the lid on the trash can? When we put a face to the people that clean up after us, it helps us see what they see. It humanizes workers and it reveals how human we are: the act of living creates dirt and trash; no one is above that. I have cleaned for countless people who struggle with guilt about their habits. Addressing a messy truth is never easy, but it’s even harder when our pride gets in the way. We can learn from our guilt and emerge from the cocoon of shame into an inspiring state of conscious choice. When confronted with someone, like myself, who will ask how things got so out of control, it is not surprising how vulnerable we need to be to acknowledge it. I am continuing to learn that anger and frustration end up inhibiting motivation and true change. For instance, it’s easier to be mad at the sanitation department for being late than to honestly look at how spending habits, consumption and lack of consideration is making the problem worse for everyone. Honesty, vulnerability and humility are the real keys to any type of lasting change because then we have a clearer idea of what is the truth. It is up to us to accept our humanness and own it, not expect a nameless, faceless person to embrace it for us. As someone who is vocal about honoring the dignity of cleaning and sanitation professionals, I can see that we can learn a lot from Haigler. He brings a face to the work that often remains unseen. When we see and honor the work of sanitation workers and cleaning professionals, we become better people. We tidy our trash, make sure that bags are properly closed, and think about how we can make someone’s life a little better and less complicated—it will directly make our lives better, too. Exhibit grace, patience and understanding as well and see how it feels. This moment calls for us to be more mindful of others by changing how we live. Change yourself in ways to affect the greater good. lois volta is a home consultant, musician and founder of Volta Naturals. loisvolta.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
DESIGN and BUILD a BETTER WORLD Re-purpose the past to serve our future
COLLEGE of ARCHITECTURE and the BUILT ENVIRONMENT
At Jefferson we prepare graduates to preserve, re-envision and re-purpose the past to serve present and future needs. We educate leaders to address such challenges as sustainability, gentrification, adaptive reuse and urban revitalization. LEARN MORE about our MS in Historic Preservation, MS in Real Estate Development, and Master of Architecture, as well as Graduate Certificates and other programs at Jefferson.edu/Grid.
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In with the Old
Historic preservation breathes new life into great buildings
ld buildings are so cool,” says Alison Eberhardt. “They’re so unique.” Eberhardt will be one of the first graduates of the newly-minted Master’s in Historic Preservation offered by Thomas Jefferson University. While it is a new program, its director, Dr. Suzanne Singletary, says the program is a natural extension of work that has been going on over the past two decades. Historic Preservation started 20 years ago as a single course, but interest was strong and it gained momentum. “When I became the director of the Architectural Studies program, I developed [Historic Preservation] into a minor of four courses, then students were really interested in that. So we developed it next into a concentration of about 24 credits.” In 2019, Historic Preservation became a master’s degree. Interest in preservation really kicked off in 1963 with the regrettable decision to demolish the magnificent Penn Station in New York City. Singletary says, “If you take the train to New York, you know what was put in its place. It’s like going into Dante’s Inferno.”
Preservation has evolved since the demolition of Penn Station and the National Historic Preservation Act was passed by Congress in 1966. While it may have once had a reputation as a pursuit driven by an overly romantic attachment to the past, that is far from the truth. “Preservation has changed from being a very insulated field, or perceived as one, where we just preserve and mummify the past,” says Singletary. “Now it’s really engaged in all kinds of levels with social and economic and political arenas. And so I think that’s very exciting.” Another common misconception about preservation is that it only extends to a certain type of building, perhaps the archetype of colonial architecture found in Elfreth’s Alley in Old City. But it’s about preserving what exists as it ages. That means that mid-century modern and modern buildings are up for consideration for preservation. In 2017, Jefferson acquired a beautiful example of a mid-century home, the Hassrick House, which was designed by renowned architect Richard Neutra. Fortunately for them, it was located on
a lot adjacent to their campus in East Falls. Students have benefitted from the acquisition of the home, as it gives them access to an historically unique architectural work that is ripe for research. Eberhardt and classmates are working on stitching the body of work together in a book. “It’s a publication that compiles the work we did as students and really puts it into something cohesive. Previous students have started to document and draw the house down to every flagstone outside of it. So we’re going to show off those great drawings. We’re going to show off this great research.” Working directly on a building from that time exposes them to the challenges that require new problem-solving skills. “It’s not like if you have a church, let’s say Notre Dame,” says Singletary. “You try to reconstruct what was missing and use the techniques of that time—which has its own set of problems. With a mid-century building or a modern building, the structural system is inseparable from the building. If you have a steel frame, you don’t just replace one part of the frame. And a lot of times materials are not even made anymore.” Speaking of materials, preservation strikes at the heart of sustainability because it emphasizes using what already exists. Singletary says, “Historic preservationists like to say, ‘The greenest building is the one already built.’ “ And though the act of preservation is rooted in a love and respect for the past, it’s a field that embraces new technology. “LIDAR, photogrammetry, augmented reality, GIS: They’re all very much a part of the toolkit today,” says Singletary. The intersection of economics, technology, community and problem solving is all part of the Historic Preservation program. But ultimately, it is rooted in heritage and aesthetics. “We have students coming in who just love architecture,” says Singletary. “They love historic buildings. They love the thought of creating new life for a building. I mean, they’re just excited by that.”
THE MISSION OF Jefferson’s College of Architecture and the Built Environment is to educate the next generation of design and construction professionals to create an equitable and sustainable future. Learn more at Jefferson.edu/Grid.
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The Road to Recovery The time is now to reclaim Philadelphia’s streets for the people. by randy lobasso There’s no going back
esperate times call for desperate measures—and the times, they are a-desperate. But with a little bit of planning, and a lot of nudging, desperation can bring out the best in people—and cities. Such was the case when Martin Luther King Jr. Drive was closed to motor vehicles and opened to people in late March 2020. It has remained that way since. Such a quick
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and decisive progressive action—rare for the Kenney Administration—was quickly replicated around the country: Cities and towns began to close their streets to cars and trucks. MLK Drive was an immediate hit with folks looking for recreation, a safer commute and proper social distancing outside. In late May, volunteers of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia counted near-
ly 1,000 users per hour on a Saturday. This is exponentially more than have used the drive for bicycling on a spring weekend in any other year on record, and exceeded the number of people using the Schuylkill River Trail along Kelly Drive. Bicycle Coalition volunteer counters observed that the users of the drive on evenings and weekends were very diverse, with families accessing the drive by bicycle via the Strawberry Mansion Bridge and Black Road. Folks from all over the city and region have, since then, been driving into the area just to use MLK Drive. This has been one of the few positive developments to come out of Philadelphia in 2020. Not just because that idea has been replicated or that it’s helped bring out more cyclists to Philadelphia streets than ever before. Among many other changes we’ve seen in Philadelphia and elsewhere, it proves that the red tape we’ve been working around for so long to provide safe, usable streets was never necessary to begin with. Turns out, you can close a street to motorists or remove parking and people with cars will simply find another way to go, or park somewhere else. Now there’s no going back. After MLK Drive was opened to people, a small but still growing group of volunteers and nonprofit organizations banded together to call for expanding the openstreets platform in the city, bringing more neighborhoods and people into the mix and giving more neighborhoods car-free access to their nearest parks. After all, MLK Drive is great, but it can’t be accessed by all Philadelphians, and motorists continue to drive dangerously on less-crowded streets throughout the city. The proposal was rejected by the Kenney Administration. When asked about the proposal, Philadelphia Managing Director Brian Abernathy noted: “I don’t see what problem we’re trying to solve by closing IL LUSTRATIO N BY S EAN RY NKEWI CZ
additional streets.” That meant no overarching, public plan. The coalition warned that without a plan from the city, we’d see crowded squares, trashed parks and an uptick in traffic deaths. Our group, now called the Recovery Streets Coalition, consisting of the Bicycle Coalition, Feet First Philly, the Clean Air Council and 5th Square, created an official platform that proposes several easy changes for our streets. Those changes include the creation of streeteries, moving outdoor dining into parking spaces; protected bike lanes, to help people who’ve taken up biking—and there are a lot of them—do so safely; and Open Streets, to allow for safe social distancing in all neighborhoods. That platform was quickly endorsed by more than 1,000 Philadelphians, several councilmembers, and 19 neighborhood and community organizations and community development corporations. As of mid-August, the city had not acknowledged the Recovery Streets proposal’s influence on their decision making—but began moving on some of the easy stuff we
proposed. Into the summer, the city opened up streeteries for all commercial neighborhoods in the city. As of mid-August, more than 460 businesses took the opportunity to expand their outdoor dining space into the street. Parklets, which are sidewalk extensions that accommodate sitting, greenery and dining, have historically been sparse. Why? Because the city intentionally made it difficult for a business to get them. Until COVID-19 struck, businesses were required to gather 50 percent near-neighbor approval, a separate insurance policy on the parklet, and architectural drawings approved by the city were required to obtain seating for people that took the space of an empty car. Neighborhoods around Philadelphia also began closing streets for weekend outdoor activities, and, in places like Manayunk, small side streets were closed semi-permanently for outdoor exercise classes. While it’s not even close to what the Recovery Streets Coalition has called for, and pales in comparison to what our peer cities have done for their residents, it’s a start. And like the new process for taking the
space of an empty car (with a three-day turnaround!), there haven’t been endless community meetings where residents demand to know (sometimes violently) where they will store their vehicles. And, as I’ve written in this column in the past, those arguments often win the day—earlier this year, for instance, a neighborhood group in Northeast Philly successfully blocked a section of the East Coast Greenway (a bicycle trail between Maine and Florida) from being built. For far too long, the convenience and pampering of motorists has trumped basically everything—the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, the service economy, the efficiency of public transportation. And while there’s a place for motor vehicles in the city, we’ve dedicated two-thirds of most small streets to parking. We have 2,172,896 parking spaces for 1.6 million residents, about 30 percent of whom don’t own a car. Here’s the thing: We don’t need them. Not all changes made during the pandemic should remain in place forever. But there are better uses for our streets than empty car storage and waterfront highways—and we’re just beginning to see how true that is.
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Aminata Sandra Calhoun enjoys the pollinator garden she helped bring to Wyalusing and Belmont streets.
Isn’t It Beautiful? Pollinator gardens improve the well-being of neighborhoods, by bernard brown and our watershed
n assortment of bees were hard at work on native flowers at Wyalusing and Belmont avenues in the Belmont neighborhood of West Philadelphia in late July. A colorful row house-sized mural of Ed Bradley, the late award-winning journalist 10 GR ID P H IL LY.CO M SEPT EM BE R 2020
and West Philly native, towered overhead, blending into the bright yellow of the sweet coneflowers, the pink of the anise hyssop, the lavender of the blazing star and the magenta of the purple coneflower blooming in the garden at Bradley’s waist. “This is my relaxation spot,” says Aminata
Sandra Calhoun, who lives around the corner on Belmont. Calhoun grew up on the block, but, after living in Northern Liberties, moved back after her parents passed away to take care of property they had owned. She was dismayed by the litter and urban decay she found in her old neighborhood. As she prepared to move back in 2016, Calhoun dedicated herself to organizing cleanup efforts. That included lobbying the city to remove two collapsing buildings at the corner of Wyalusing and Belmont. “For 16 months I was sending letters and emails,” she says. She then moved on to contacting Mural Arts Philadelphia to advocate for a mural on the remaining wall, leading to the Ed Bradley work, painted in 2017 and 2018. Calhoun, who describes herself as “an environmental warrior,” then organized a mindful zero-waste cleanup effort on her block. When the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) reached out about installing a pollinator garden, she welcomed the initiative. The pollinator garden is part of a pilot program launched by PHS, along with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in Philadelphia’s Mantua and Strawberry Mansion neighborhoods. “The pollinator gardens are gardens with native species of plants that will support a healthy ecosystem of pollinators, for example bees, butterflies and birds,” says Samir Dalal, planning manager for Philadelphia LandCare, a program that works with community groups and contractors to clean up vacant lots and plant them with lawn grass and small trees. “Normally we take these vacant lots that are in disarray and turn them into a community asset, clean and green,” says Dalal. Research into LandCare has shown that greening vacant lots reduces gun violence, raises property values and improves the emotional well-being of neighbors. Still, NWF staff, on a visit to Philadelphia in 2018, realized these greened lots could do more if they were planted with native wildflowers, according to Holly Gallagher, senior manager of education and community conservation, NWF Mid-Atlantic Regional Center. “NWF has done a lot of work creating pollinator habitat, corridors and, upon seeing the spaces in Philadelphia, P HOTO G RAP H BY D RE W DENNI S
just-lawn-mowed spaces, we started talking about the additional value for pollinators and community members if they were planted with native plants,” Gallagher says. In addition to helping pollinators and adding beauty to the lots, the increased vegetation—compared to mowed grass—could mitigate some effects of global warming. As rising temperatures fuel heavier rainstorms, the extra vegetation could soak up more water and help cool the urban landscape, says Gallagher. PHS and NWF are working with Christopher Swan, Ph.D., professor of geography and environmental systems at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, to study which of the native plants thrive in urban settings, information that will guide future urban plantings. The 50 gardens are planted with different combinations of native plant species. At Wyalusing and Mantua avenues, another garden looked similar but not identical to the one at Belmont. It featured some repeats such as the purple coneflower and the blazing star, but also the bright orange flowers of butterfly weed, a species of milkweed. “It’s a huge variety of plants, thousands of plants in different combinations,” says Swan. “The idea is that some plants are high, some plants are low, some plants spread out, some don’t. Some plants have different shaped flowers, some plants attract certain pollinators, some don’t need pollinators at all, so the theory is that as you increase the number of species, you increase the likelihood that you will have species that provide the services you’re looking for.” Those services already include neighborhood beautification. “Neighbors are loving the gardens,” Dalal says. “There are people working on how to bring the kids out to learn about them. This is a learning opportunity to teach about native plants and pollinators, which excites community gardeners because they want pollinators for their gardens.” Calhoun, who comes out four times a week to pick up trash in her local pollinator garden, enjoys engaging passersby while she’s cleaning up. “About two weeks back I saw a gentleman in the front of the garden. I said, ‘Isn’t it beautiful?’ and he said, ‘I’m in West Philadelphia seeing this?’ ” she laughs. “And I said, ‘Yes, you are!’”
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street stories & curbside characters
Throwing Shade Volunteer Tree Tenders aim to improve the city by by constance garcia-barrio restoring its canopy
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ne could call the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s (PHS) Tree Tenders quixotic in their drive to increase Philadelphia’s tree canopy, a goal whose attainment would mean a healthier city. “Our canopy, which currently sits at 20 percent, represents a 6 percent loss over the past 10 years,” says Tree Tender Marcus Ferreira, 47, of South Philadelphia, a lawyer with a degree in urban planning. “As things stand, we’re losing ground.” Those numbers would be grimmer without Tree Tenders, which are volunteer-based community groups that plant trees. Under the guidance of Mindy Maslin, aka The Tree Lady, who began the program in 1993 and continues to manage it, Tree Tenders has trained some 5,000 people, who’ve led volunteers in planting more than 1,500 trees annually. Trees are more than a matter of charming street scenes, Tree Tenders point out. “ADHD is less of a problem on tree-lined streets,” says retired marketing analytics professional Rose Johnson, 58, of East Mount Airy Tree Tenders, who’s helped plant some 80 trees in five years. “Cars go slower and people are less anxious,” she adds. Ferreira, co-chair of the PHS Tree Tenders Steering Committee, sheds more light on this connection. “If you have a view of greenery in the hospital, you recover faster,” he says, “and investing in trees and green spaces is one of the most effective ways to cut violence.” A February 2018 study of Chicago in “Landscape and Urban Planning” yielded hard numbers on this issue: “A 10 percent increase in the tree canopy [is] associated with 11.3 percent less assault, robbery [and] narcotics,” the authors found. Philadelphia would like to increase its tree canopy by that magic 10 percentage points, Ferreira notes, but achieving it means reversing the current trend. “Philadelphia has one of the smallest tree canopies among major northeastern cities,” he says. “New York’s canopy stands at 24 percent, while Baltimore’s is 28 percent.” A series of workshops preps Tree Tenders for their task. “The training’s very good,” says Johnson. P HOTO G RAP HY BY M ILTO N LI NDSAY
“We learned tree identification, proper planting techniques and how to water and prune trees. Tips on community engagement help us approach neighbors about having a tree on their property. East Mount Airy Tree Tenders has done outreach with neighbors and some churches,” she says, “and an arborist who lives nearby did a tree walk for us and talked about Mt. Airy’s tree nurseries in the 1800s.” “You learn which trees to plant where,” says social worker Kiasha Huling, 38, executive director of UC Green, a nonprofit that “empower[s] volunteer environmental stewardship in University City and surrounding communities.” Huling has helped plant more than 100 trees in two years. “My first tree was a honey locust in Malcolm X Park,” says Huling, who, like other Tree Tenders, returns to check the health and growth of trees. “A couple of the trees have had struggles. Someone dumped hot coals on the honey locust, but when I checked back, it had recovered.” Over the years, Tree Tenders have formed friendships, strengthened their communities and left a green imprint on the city. Cynthia Kishinchand, 79, retired acting executive director of Friends of the Free Library of Philadelphia, has coordinated East Falls Tree Tenders (EFTT) since 1996. In 25 years, EFTT has had a hand in planting about 1,000 trees along 47 thoroughfares as well as at schools and a recreation center. Many trees carry a label that says, “I am your breath of fresh air.” While Tree Tenders rack up successes, they hit snags, too. “Getting people to apply for the trees is the biggest challenge,” Johnson says. “I explain that the trees are free, but people have many different reasons for saying no.” But she remains undeterred. “We’ve planted four trees on my block, and more nearby. The streets look much more welcoming now, and in 10 or 15 years, those trees will make an even bigger difference. You have to see it as a long-term project.” Tree Tenders often wrestle with small budgets that limit their activities. “The trees are free, but you need tools, mulch, tree guards, buckets and other items,” Kishinchand says. She has built community connections that give EFTT a longer reach. “We’ve collaborated with individuals, in-
Left: UC Green Director Kiasha Huling snips a pest off of the branches of a London planetree. Right: Huling explains how sidewalks can constrict roots.
5 Policy Points For Protecting Trees Tree Tender Marcus Ferreira feels it’s critical for the city to have a policy about trees, including:
As in NYC, protect existing trees by requiring developers to erect frames around trees and their critical root zone.
Coordinate with the Streets Department to prune lower limbs of trees to reduce limb loss and premature mortality.
Require developers to post substantial bonds against tree damage.
Eliminate the threshold for protected-tree status—a diameter of 24 inches and 4.5 feet.
Regard trees as necessary infrastructure for all mid- and largescale projects.
stitutions and businesses like Bartlett Tree Experts, East Falls Business Association, Jefferson University and other organizations for funds to plant the trees and provide programs for 6,000 youngsters,” says Kishinchand, who, like many Tree Tenders, stresses introducing children to trees early.
“They’re your future Tree Tenders. We’ve invited students from Thomas Mifflin, St. Bridget’s, Penn Charter and Wissahickon Charter schools to our annual Arbor Day Celebration at Inn Yard Park since 1996.” Philadelphia Parks and Recreation supplies the trees, speaker system and other equipment for the event, which includes water relays, a parachute game and a treethemed book for each teacher. “You’ve got to remember to say thank you,” Kishinchand adds. Income may play a role. Despite the city’s 30 percent canopy goal, numbers hover at 2.5 in some neighborhoods, many of them with lower-income households. For that reason, EFTT has extended its tree-planting to communities in North Philly, Kishinchand says, but it takes empathy. “You contact civic associations and neighborhood groups. You can’t just waltz in and say, ‘You should plant trees for these reasons.’ People may be struggling to pay bills,” Kishinchand says. “You have to be respectful. You have to listen.” Kishinchand would like trees to have the same protections as fire hydrants. “Fire hydrants do a job,” she says. “They save burning houses. Trees do work too: they remove pollutants from the air, generate oxygen, provide shade, combat global warming and increase property value. Trees aren’t just another pretty face. They’re your quality of life.” S E PTE M B E R 20 20 G R I DP HILLY.COM 13
Spice of Life With a pinch of this and a dash of that, a vegan chef makes worldly spice blends and pastes by
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This page: Elizabette Andrade teaches a cooking class with her products. Opposite: Some of Cooking Alchemy’s spice mixes and sauces.
She believes this approach is alchemical and transforms food into a whole new experience. This sentiment especially rang true when Andrade had her first child, at 25. Her son had health challenges that required changes to cuisine and lifestyle. After consulting naturopaths and various doctors, she began to use plant-based resources to heal herself and her family. Andrade found that her culinary gifts were improving her son’s quality of life. What began as family healing blossomed into a sustainable brand. Cooking Alchemy was founded in 2010. When Andrade and her family moved from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia, she immediately felt that the city was a “magical
place.” After her adjunct teaching gig at a local college ended, she saw an opportunity to pursue food. At her home in Germantown, she threw together long-lasting rubs and pastes for vegan dishes. These creations became a hit amongs friends and family, and in 2012 she started vending at local farmers markets. The business relies on ancient as well as modern, sustainable practices to create handcrafted, plant-based products. Alchemy, Andrade explains, is “all about the feeling.” This translates into the production process of Cooking Alchemy’s spice blends—if she feels a vibrational or energetic pull toward a specific ingredient or flavor profile, she’ll add it. She can’t ignore it, she says.
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lizabette andrade grew up in the kitchen. In her household, you weren’t given a cookbook—you were expected to watch and listen. As her matriarchs poured their hearts and souls into homemade dishes, Andrade catalogued every little detail. She took note of the unmeasured spices thrown into pots and marinades, her nose remembered savory scents and tangy undertones, and her taste buds rejoiced over the flavors of her family’s culinary heritage. Since then, traditions of cuisine and family from Cape Verde, an island country off the western coast of Africa, translated through time and aided Andrade in finding her true self. When she visited the islands for the first time, she says, she learned how to cook in an unconventional setting. “I learned how to cook outdoors and use natural resources to prepare a meal,” she says. While abroad, Andrade learned a momentous philosophy: the power lies in the hands of the cook, not the ingredients. This observation, along with her “culinary-literate DNA” and connection to sustainable, natural sourcing, led to her current passion: Cooking Alchemy, her company that produces plantbased spice blends, pastes and bouillons. “I came from a line of women who were very culinary literate, [meals were made] without recipes or reading,” says Andrade. “Most of them are functionally illiterate. Recipes were nonexistent. But cooking was a way to connect, nourish and keep the family together.”
Cooking Alchemy has almost a dozen products available online and at retail locations, including Germantown Kitchen Garden. Cooking Alchemy’s mushroom bouillon, three savory spice blends and six world-fusion pastes will pack a punch to homemade meals. The recipes for some of Alchemy’s blends, like the herbal nutri-spice, go back almost 10 years in the making, Andrade says. Yolanda Wisher, a Germantown resident and repeat customer, can’t get enough of Alchemy’s jerk paste. The jerk is a twist on the classic Jamaican jerk seasoning, with the addition of onion, garlic, ginger and thyme in an olive oil base. “It’s so versatile in a lot of different types of meat and poultry,” says Wisher. She discovered Cooking Alchemy after her husband, a teacher, received a jerk paste sample as an end-of-the-year gift. “I stole it from him,” Wisher laughs. “He gets a lot of teacher gifts and I usually steal the ones I don’t think he’s going to appreciate as much as I will.” She experimented with the paste in her cooking and fell in love. Soon after, she started to order multiple products every month or so, picking them up at Cooking Alchemy’s day stall at Reading Terminal Market—which opened in February 2019— or receiving a delivery from Andrade herself. Wisher relies on the pastes in times of fast-turnaround cooking or to satisfy umami-filled cravings. Kush, a paste reflecting Ethopian and Indian flavor profiles and named in honor of the ancient African empire, is another favorite. “Kush is magical and deepens the flavor,” Wisher adds.
The plant-based creations also exude rich, earthy scents that envelop a room, and even the Reading Terminal. Andrade remembers a customer once inhaled the spicy, botanical aroma of Kush and exclaimed, “I can picture the children running when I was in Ethiopia.” Andrade hopes to return to the Reading Terminal once Philadelphia is able to fully reopen. Germantown Kitchen Garden, owned by Amanda Staples, is a farmstand and plant nursery that has offered organic, locally grown produce to Germantown residents since 2015. Staples tried several of Andrade’s pastes and rubs, and, soon after, Cooking Alchemy was on the shelves. She heard the feedback from her customers almost immediately. “My customers are very chatty, so they definitely want me to know what they like and don’t like … people got excited about [the Shambhala paste],” Staples says. “People are really trying to support local businesses. Now, they’re even more excited, as it’s more meaningful than maybe it once was.” Supporting local businesses and owners of color is extremely important, especially in Germantown, adds Staples. In August, Andrade’s product line debuted at Di Bruno Brothers. Andrade met owner Bill Mignucci at a specialty food conference, which set the stage for their future partnership. “He is all about family business and Philly. And I felt like that was, energetically, the right kind of connection,” says Andrade.
At first, she assumed the Italian grocer would sell only her bestsellers—in fact, Di Bruno Brothers requested her entire paste line. The pastes, including Creole and fan-favorite Shambhala, are available in all three Philadelphia locations. To urban farmer Christa Barfield, success lies in the use of products of traceable origin, all-natural ingredients and accountability. “Because what we’re putting into our bodies dictates how we feel and how we connect with each other, it’s important to have all-natural and healthy products,” says Barfield, owner of FarmerJawn Community Greenhouses and Viva Leaf Tea Co. Like Di Bruno Brothers, FarmerJawn introduced Cooking Alchemy to its farmstand in August. “Our companies are very similar. That’s the reason why I definitely wanted to work with her—that holistic aspect and just understanding the importance of food and empowerment manifests throughout our daily lives,” Barfield adds. Barfield and Andrade connected over important social justice topics like food insecurity, food justice and sustainability. Cooking Alchemy is sold in glass jars, lessening plastic waste. Once COVID-related restrictions ease, Andrade will be able to refill jars for a discounted price. “Her product is exceptionally delicious, and that’s the No. 1 most important thing. I’m not a vegan, but every time Elizabette has made me food, I have been overwhelmed by how she understands flavors and how they work together,” Staples says. Wisher agrees. “Elizabette thinks about her work with food as an art form, and that makes me feel that way when I’m cooking.” S E PTE M B E R 20 20 G R I DP HI LLY.COM 1 5
, OUT DAMNED SPOT! Spotted lanternflies have infested the region and researchers are hard at work trying to control their spread story by
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Entomologist Osariyekemwen Uyi collects spotted lanternflies in a bottle The Woodlands from a tree of heaven.
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SPOTTED LANTERNFLIES LANDED ON MY HAT, MY FACE AND every other available surface of my body on August 5, at The Woodlands in West Philadelphia. I was there tagging along with a team of Penn State researchers on a mission to collect 3,000 of the bugs that morning. Alongside me were entomologist Osariyekemwen Uyi; Michelle Niedermeier, a coordinator with Penn State Extension’s Community Integrated Pest Management program (the agricultural outreach unit that is leading Pennsylvania’s lanternfly education effort); Robin Rick, facility manager at The Woodlands; and several other volunteers and Penn State graduate students. The challenge was not finding or catching the bugs. They coated the bark of two trees of heaven we targeted, and crawled through the grass around us. They weren’t getting away either. Lanternflies are clumsy fliers, and, when spooked, tended to land a few feet away, often on fellow team members. They are also not very bright and it was easy to catch them by lowering open plastic bottles, so that they’d jump up into the mouths. What made the task difficult was their fragility. Uyi, who planned to study how the bugs affect the plants they feed on, needed them alive, and scooping them up by hand could kill them. We couldn’t catch more than 20 per bottle before emptying them into mesh holding cages, since at higher densities they could injure each other. Uyi and Rick clipped small tree branches and carefully shook them out into the holding cages. The process took a while to adjust to. When I felt the soft thud of a lanternfly smacking into me, I had to suppress the reflex to swat it away. Instead, I’d reach toward it with a bottle and very carefully coax it in.
he first time i saw a spotted lanternfly, I saw a few hundred of them. It was September 2018, and I was stopping at the Allentown Service Plaza on I-476. Inch-long grey or tan insects, like moths with a high profile, seemed to be everywhere: flying clumsily in and out of bushes, landing on the pavement, and clinging to the building’s walls. 18
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From top: Author Bernard Brown catches a lanternfly from his hat. Lanternflies crawl up a researcher’s legs and coat a tree trunk.
They’d first been spotted in the state about four years earlier. On September 22, 2014, Daniel Lynch, a Wildlife Education Specialist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission had reported, “an unusual pest in large numbers on Ailanthus altissima [also known as the tree of heaven],” in Berks County. Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) staff immediately responded, collecting more than 100 of the
critters and sounding the alarm that a new pest had arrived. In fact, based on the numbers they were seeing and the presence of old, overwintered egg masses, it had already been here for two to three years. The spotted lanternfly, native to China, India and Vietnam, is a large planthopper, smaller species of which might be familiar as skittish bugs that spring into the air when threatened. Planthoppers are “true
bugs” (in the order Hemiptera), and like all true bugs they feed with mouthparts that form a long needle or straw through which they drink liquids. In large numbers, they can drink enough sap to weaken or kill their host plants. In addition to damaging plants by feeding, they excrete a sugary liquid called honeydew as a waste product, which can feed blooms of fungi that themselves
According to Heather Leach, an agricultural sciences associate at Penn State, recent population modeling found that trying to squash or trap our way out of the problem is futile.
can damage the host plants. It does not help that the spotted lanternfly’s favorite host plant is the extremely common tree of heaven—an invasive East Asian species that thrives as a tenacious weed, quick to sprout and hard to kill. Neither does it help that our native bug-eaters avoid the lanternflies, which sequester toxins produced by the tree of heaven so that they themselves become distasteful. The bright red they flash on their hind wings also serves to warn birds away. Agricultural officials knew to be worried when they identified the spotted lanternflies in Berks County. The bugs had spread into South Korea in 2004, attacking the country’s orchards and vineyards. It was not hard to recognize the threat they could pose to grape-growing operations in Pennsylvania, not to mention more significant wine-growing regions on the West Coast. The PDA tried to keep the spotted lanternfly contained by enacting a quarantine zone. That zone started off with a few townships in eastern Berks County, but lanternflies kept spreading. By the fall of 2017, the PDA had quarantined 13 entire counties, including Philadelphia. As predicted, the lanternflies wreaked havoc on vineyards in their way. Darvin Levengood, owner of Manatawny Creek Winery, in Berks County, says his winery saw its first couple adult lanternflies in 2016. “Didn’t give much thought to it,” he recalls. “They started to hatch in 2017 and we weren’t too worried about the hatchlings and nymphs. We ... found ourselves with a lot of adults, including the ones flying in from the forest.” Grape production at their vineyards had dropped a little in 2017, but not enough to be worrying, Levengood says. The winery staff worked through the winter to scrape off every egg mass they could find, but in 2018 unusually wet weather and hordes of lanternflies, survivors from the vineyard enforced by adults from the surrounding woods, combined to devastate the grapevines. “In 2018 the harvest was abysmal,” Levengood says, and in 2019 it was even worse as damaged vines continued to die. I could still see the scars when I visited this July: gaps in the rows of grapevines where chardonnay, cabernet franc and other varietals had grown. Some rows were nearly empty, more weedy earth than vines.
y 2019, southeastern Pennsylvania had been infected with spotted lanternfly fever as much as it had been infested with the actual insects. As the spotted lanternfly population exploded, the Philadelphia Police Department had to ask residents to stop calling 911 to report sightings. News stories and social media posts abounded, many of them depicting the bugs and instructing people on how to kill them. The effort to stop the lanternflies was often described in martial terms, with the bugs as invaders and humans fighting a war against them. “Our desire to annihilate insects goes very deep,” says James McWilliams, history professor at Texas State University and author of “American Pests: The Losing War on Insects from Colonial Times to DDT.” “There’s something psychologically terrifying about insect invasions,” McWilliams says. “I compare it to a virus—we know it’s around us, but we don’t necessarily know when and where and how it’s going to happen because we can’t see them at work.” In terms of the spotted lanternfly, humans have tried to annihilate them every way possible. YouTube videos depict locals seeking and destroying spotted lanternflies. Gardeners spray them with soapy solutions and attach sticky material to trees. Kids smash them with skateboards. A video of someone killing lanternflies with a propane torch has racked up more than 8,000 views. However, according to Heather Leach, an agricultural sciences associate at Penn State, recent population modeling found that trying to squash or trap our way out of the problem is futile. These methods “have less than a 1 percent impact on their populations,” she says, careful to point out that traps might still hold promise for relieving feeding stress on individual trees. “If you can reduce the population on trees you really care about and really want to protect, then you can make headway,” Leach says. But local wildlife rehabilitators have been seeing unintended casualties with some tree traps. “Right when the lanternfly problem emerged, we started getting the calls,” says Michele Wellard of Philadelphia Metro Wildlife Center. Spotted lanternflies aren’t the only animals that move up and down tree trunks, S E PTE M B E R 20 20
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and many of the others, including birds such as woodpeckers and nuthatches, were getting stuck on the sticky lanternfly traps. “Some come in really bad, with skin ripped off. We had a woodpecker with its tongue ripped out,” she says. Oils are often used to make sticky traps less sticky, but an oiled bird is an emergency as much as a stuck one. The stress of being stuck, struggling and then being removed can also be lethal. “Sometimes we get the bird and there’s nothing on it, and a day later it’s dead,” says Wellard, noting they have only been able to save one of every five birds. Penn State Extension now recommends protecting larger animals from lanternfly traps. Options include wrapping chicken wire or hardware cloth around a sticky trap as a barrier or attaching the sticky material around spacers and facing inwards. In addition, a type of funnel trap developed to protect pecan trees from weevils can also be used against lanternflies. The spotted lanternfly has kept moving despite all the trapping and squashing. On March 15, 2019 the PDA expanded the quarantine zone west to include Dauphin County. In October 2019, researchers published maps showing where the lanternfly could spread, based on where the lanterfly now thrives. Prime habitat includes most of the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest. If the lanternfly can make it past the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, it could thrive in the major fruit- and wine-growing regions of California and the Pacific Northwest.
n july 2020, Niedermeier and Uyi invited me along to The Woodlands to scout for the collecting trip in August. Spotted lanternflies hatch out as white-spotted black “nymphs” in the spring. These are roughly the same shape as adults but without wings. As they grow, they shed their exoskeleton five times, with each stage called an “instar.” The fourth instar has a mostly red-background, and it sheds into the winged adult form in late summer. In the fall the adult females lay eggs in masses that look like smears of concrete. Though we certainly saw plenty of lanternfly nymphs in low vegetation, like the milkweed in The Woodlands’ meadow, the real hordes of them were up in the trees, particularly the trees of heaven and paper mulberries. Smaller branches were almost encrusted with 20
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nymphs, so Uyi concluded he would have no problem finding enough for his study. Rick, a Woodlands’ manager, showed us around on the scouting trip. She had spotted her first lanternflies at The Woodlands in the fall of 2018, near the railroad tracks that run along the eastern edge of the cemetery. In 2019, they were “distributed across the site, but not in large numbers,” she recalls. In 2020, “they took over the whole property.” Last year, The Woodlands participated in a USDA program that involved killing smaller trees of heaven but leaving larger ones, treated with an insecticide, as lethal traps. “We did see a drop in numbers after that treatment, but then in September, when the adults really started to move, the numbers shot back up again,” says Rick. Leach confirmed this pattern. For example, you can scrape off egg masses, but “what you’re able to scrape is less than 10 percent of what’s in the tree,” Leach says. Lanternflies are incredibly mobile as well. The nymphs can cover roughly 50 yards in 24 hours, she says. The winged adults can cover more distance in the air. “We’ve definitely observed them riding thermals [warm rising air], so you can see them considerably high in the sky,” Leach says. “They’re capable of longer dispersal than we really thought. If not high up, then they’re doing these constant short bounces of 20 to 25 feet. They do it over and over again.”
till, there may be hope of controlling the invasive pests— though native birds and insects don’t have much of a taste for lanternflies, some of our fungi just might. On October 9, 2018, next to an apple orchard near Reading, Pennsylvania, large numbers of spotted lanternflies died with what looked like cotton growing out of them. The cotton was the spore-releasing structure of two species of native, insect-eating fungi. One, Beauveria bassiana, is already commercially available as a biological control agent for other insect pests, meaning it will be easy to apply to spotted lanternflies. Researchers from Penn State and Cornell followed up in 2019 and found that the commercially available fungal agent does indeed kill lots of lanternflies. This year they are testing different application methods to refine the practice and compare its effectiveness to that of commonly used chemical insecticides. USDA researchers are also vetting two
species of tiny wasps that, back in China, lay their eggs on lanternfly nymphs and eggs— the wasp larvae then feeds, devouring the lanternflies from within. It will take several years to confirm that these lanternfly killers will control lanternflies here and, just as importantly, leave native insects alone. While we wait on biological control options, Pennsylvania’s strategy to slow the spread of spotted lanternflies targets human-assisted transportation. Although the lanternfly can certainly disperse on its own, we inadvertently help it cover more ground. For example, it most likely reached the Pittsburgh area via rail lines, according to Shannon Powers, press secretary for the PDA. “It doesn’t fly that far, but it’s a wonderful hitchhiker,” she says. The quarantine zone targets the hitchhikers. Businesses have to apply for a permit to move agricultural products and other goods across the quarantine perimeter. Anyone transporting objects (industrial equipment, cars, hiking gear) that could potentially carry a lanternfly or an egg mass from inside the quarantine zone to outside the zone is required to search for all lanternfly life stages and carry a filled-out inspection checklist with them. The PDA is also trying to get rid of the lanternfly’s favorite tree at either end of potential routes out of the quarantine zone. Powers notes that it is impossible to cut down every tree of heaven in Pennsylvania, but “we have been targeting places where there is a tremendous risk of spreading the insect, like shipping yards, railways, and tourist destinations, particularly ones surrounded by wooded areas or agricultural fields,” she says, explaining that this includes state parks where campers from inside the zone might vacation. Although the department is still interested in spotted lanternfly reports from inside the quarantine zone, it particularly relies on reports from outside the zone to figure out where new populations might be gaining a foothold and then to control those before they spread. “We have sent teams out responding to every report outside the quarantined area,” says Powers. This spring the PDA expanded the quarantine zone in a continuous area stretching from the Delaware River to Blair County in the west, and then, after a gap of several counties, Allegheny and Beaver in south-
western Pennsylvania. Much of western New Jersey is now lanternfly territory, as is northern Delaware, northeastern Maryland and a small portion of northern Virginia and adjacent West Virginia. Isolated lanternflies have been spotted as far south as Western North Carolina and as far north as the Boston area and Upstate New York. As a rising tide of spotted lanternflies were flooding Philadelphia, their numbers were declining in Berks County, where they were first encountered. If you think of the infestation as a wave rolling out from Berks County, Philadelphia is experiencing the crest, while areas just to the northwest are heading into the trough. “We’re still learning a lot, but basically we saw a reduction in that ground-zero area,” says Leach. “There were fewer last year, and they weren’t laying as many egg masses.” No one is certain why. Leach speculates that the lanternflies’ favorite host plants had been stressed in the peak years to the point that they were less attractive, and lanternflies moved on. The decline also could have had something to do with a wet autumn in 2018, hindering egg-laying. Leach was also careful to note that the decline might be temporary. “We are seeing an increase in populations this year where there was a decrease last year. It’s not that crazy high population that we saw, but we are seeing a resurgence. Kind of an ebb and flow,” she says. Levengood observed fewer in 2019 than in 2018 but speculated that the population decrease had more to do with the weather than anything else. His operation has adapted as well, spraying insecticides to kill nymphs through the summer. “From the time I do that spraying till the time the adults come in, our vineyards are
You can stand in the vineyard and watch them come in, descending from the trees.” —darvin levengood, Owner of Manatawny Creek Winery
lanternfly free,” he says, though they can’t stop adults from flying in from surrounding areas. “You can stand in the vineyard and watch them come in, descending from the trees.”
yi’s project is one of many attempting to understand how spotted lanternflies will impact North America and what we might do to mitigate the damage. There are 900,000 known species of insects in the world, and we know very little about the vast majority of them unless they start causing us problems. Leach pointed out that we have only been studying spotted lanternflies for six years in North America. “We still don’t have an effective way to measure a population in an area,” she says. Traps on trees tell researchers where they are and can convey a crude sense for how dense their populations are at particular locations, but they don’t have any way to tell how many are across the state or city. It isn’t certain whether or not we will be able to curb the spread of spotted lanternflies. Similar to other invasive species, like the emerald ash borer, it could turn out to be unstoppable. Dead ash trees now stand out in our forests and roadsides, conspicuously naked in summer amid the dense green of the surrounding trees. In a few years, the only ash trees left will be the ones we can afford to treat with insecticides.
Or, similar to the Japanese beetle that arrived in 1916 at a New Jersey plant nursery across the river from Northeast Philadelphia, they could hit like a tsunami and then fade into the background as critters that we learn to manage. At Manatawny Creek Winery, I stopped to look at shiny green Japanese beetles and the grape leaves they had skeletonized, leaving a lace-like structure of leaf veins with nothing in between. Levengood says that they spray insecticides three times a year to control the Japanese beetles, but some still survive. Still, for six years we have managed to at least slow spotted lanternflies’ spread, buying time for researchers to learn more about how we can control them. Powers points out that South Korea is about the same size as Pennsylvania, and there, “they spread throughout the country in three years, so we feel like our efforts have been successful,” she says. Uyi’s team spent about four hours at The Woodlands catching spotted lanternflies, but I had to take off a little early. As I prepared to leave the August collection at The Woodlands, I found one last spotted lanternfly on my shirt. I tried to shoo it off gently, and it crawled on my finger, where I let it sit for a moment. I couldn’t help but admit that it was a handsome critter, fawn-colored wings with black spots and a delicate net pattern toward the back. It jumped away, and I let it go. S E PTE M B E R 20 20
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BROTHERLY BREW Philly’s first Black-owned brewery has big plans on tap
story by jaclyn zeal
hile the craft beer renaissance has generated an uptick in breweries throughout Philadelphia (with as many as 16 new breweries opening in 2019 alone), Rich and Mengistu Koilor are on a mission to add to the city’s thriving beer scene by opening its first Black-owned brewery. The West Philadelphia brothers behind Two Locals Brewing Company spoke with Grid about their passion for brewing, the vision for their brewery and their recent Black Is Beautiful collaborations. This interview has been edited for clarity, length and style. 22 GRID P H IL LY.CO M SEPT EM BE R 20 20
How did the idea to create Two Locals Brewing Company come about? rich: My older brother and I developed a love for craft beer. We would send pictures back and forth of different beers we were trying. Then eventually, I got a homebrew kit and I brewed an Irish Red Ale that turned out pretty good. Eventually, we joined a Philly homebrew club to learn how to brew better and to test our beers on people who had been brewing for years. We got our LLC in 2018, and that’s when we put ourselves out there, and the more that we brewed, we saw that there weren’t a lot of Black brewers or Black breweries.
So we thought, “Why not create something where we can enjoy great beers and create a space for our community?” mengistu: We certainly have a love for beer—the whole scene and the whole vibe. Once we started homebrewing, we started sharing and partnering with nonprofits; we did pop-ups at coworking spaces and a variety of events. We were receiving really good feedback on the beer, and that’s what kicked off our journey. We thought, “So many people like our beers, why not open a brewery?” It’s pretty incredible that you already have more than 3,000 followers on Instagram and you haven’t opened your physical location yet. Have you been surprised by the reception? rich: I’m surprised by how quickly we got over 3,000 followers. That is amazing. We always felt that our story would connect with people here in Philly. We did have to get our story out there, but once we were featured in “The [Philadelphia] Tribune” and on KYW,
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Brothers Rich (left) and Mengistu Koilor pose with their Black is Beautiful beer.
We want to help people—especially from the African American community. We want to teach our community how a brewery runs and show people that they could potentially get into this great industry...” —mengistu koil or people started to see those articles and we felt the support that we always knew was there.
potentially get into this great industry that’s not going anywhere.
What is your vision for the physical brewery? mengistu: In terms of space, we’re looking for anywhere from a 2,500- to 4,000-squarefoot space that would allow us to grow. We’ll start with a 7- to 10-barrel system. The key is finding a space that allows us to grow, because as we talk to other breweries, they emphasize [the] need to expand. As for the vibe of the actual space, it will definitely have the industrial brewery look, with a West African, West Philly twist to it, from the artwork to the music.
What beers are you currently brewing? mengistu: Right now, we have about five beers that we’ll open up our brewery with. We have a Belgian wheat called Who You Wit?, our Nubian Brown Ale, a pale ale called 215 City Ale, an oatmeal milk stout and our Prolific Hazy IPA. We actually did a sampling via Zoom recently for the Prolific and it got really great feedback.
Will you continue to host events once you have your physical space? mengistu: Oh, yeah. One of the reasons why we want a large space is so we can do events. When all of this [COVID-19] craziness comes to an end, we plan on continuing to partner with the community. We want to stay connected with the community. We want to host events, collaborate with nonprofits. We want to help people—especially from the African American community. We want to teach our community how a brewery runs. And show people that they could
Will you tell us about your recent Black Is Beautiful collaboration? rich: With everything that’s going on with Black Lives Matter, there was a beer recipe developed called Black Is Beautiful, and different breweries are participating around the country and around the world, and all proceeds [go] to local social justice organizations. We collaborated with Harris Family Brewery, in Harrisburg, which is the first Black-owned brewery in Pennsylvania, and Love City Brewing. We put our own spin on the recipe by adding toasted coconut, because we wanted to add a summer flare to the imperial stout, and it’s available at Love City.
The Black Is Beautiful recipe was developed by Weathered Souls, in San Antonio. The purpose is to raise awareness and give back, as well as to show that the craft beer industry wants to be more diverse. Do you have any other collaborations coming up? rich: We have another Black Is Beautiful collaboration with Chimney Rustic Ales, located in New Jersey. It’ll only be available to purchase in New Jersey. However, we may buy some cases to bring to Philly. We are having a T-shirt made so people can buy that, too. The special thing about the recipe with Chimney Rustic Ales is that we are going to age the barrel of the beer. The purpose of using aged barrels is to show that change doesn’t come quickly and that it takes time. How can folks currently support your brewery? rich: Our swag bags have been flying off the shelf. Last week, we ran out of things so we had to reorder them. We did a presale for T-shirts. We had over 120 orders and then we took it down and people have been asking. I think that shows the kind of support that we do have. I think we have a really solid following and we don’t have a location yet. To be able to start to learn names already, and to see the same people showing up and supporting us, that’s all that we can really ask for. Where can we follow along on your journey? rich: We hope to be open soon, but in the meantime, follow us on Instagram @twolocals. And if people want to support us, we’ll continue to have swag for sale at twolocalsbrewing.com.
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Hiking Philadelphia’s border fosters a better sense of where the city ends and the rest of the world begins
story by aaron salsbury
t ’ s no secret that the covid-19 pandemic has radically impacted how festivals operate in 2020—but at least one artist, Jacques-Jean “JJ” Tiziou, is taking advantage of the shift. For 2020’s Philadelphia Fringe Festival, he’s bringing a socially distanced outdoor experience to the table: a walk around Philadelphia’s perimeter. Born from a 2016 collaboration with Ann de Forest, Adrienne Mackey and Sam Wend, Walk Around Philadelphia has 24 GRID P H IL LY.CO M SEPT EM BE R 2020
functioned as an annual five-and-a-half-day personal pilgrimage the last few years. This is the first time it has been offered outside of February. Tiziou himself has been invested in the Fringe Fest since 2003 and is excited to be coming back this year with his own project,“which is literally an invitation to the fringes of the city,” he says. Tiziou took some time to answer our questions about the event. This interview has been edited for length, clarity and style.
Previously, this walk has taken place in February, correct? It’s been February every year. The first year, I had one of the most joyous
P H OTO G R A P H Y C O U R T E S Y O F J J T I Z I O U
WALK THE LINE
This project has become an open invitation for anyone to explore the fringes of Philadelphia. Can you talk about what that entails? When you think “tour of Philadelphia,” you don’t think of the outer perimeter. One experience that we’ve reflected on over and over again is that the first time we were walking on the far northern edge of the city, we caught a glimpse of the skyline in the distance, and thought instinctively, “Oh, there’s Philly.” Our biased idea of the city is its skyscraper-dense downtown core. But then we checked ourselves and were like, “Oh no, we’re on the border. We’re on the perimeter. So, this right here at our feet, and everything to our right—this is Philadelphia. And everything to our left over there is not Philadelphia.” It’s an interesting game to play as you walk along to see the differences, it looks all the same, and there’s this totally arbitrary line of what is Philadelphia and what is not Philadelphia. It’s a shift from thinking of the city from this sort of center-centric model to a borders-and-all-that-it-encompasses model, and the humility that kind of comes with understanding the vastness and complexity of the city. The invite is for people to discover the real perimeter of the city. This project will involve people following some guidelines, forming some groups, picking up a packet of supplies from my porch, going off and then reporting back.
Our biased idea of the city is its skyscraper-dense downtown core.” —jj tiziou
From left: A hiker in a field along Philadelphia’s border. JJ Tiziou takes a selfie with fellow participants. Hikers map out their route.
weeks of my life, so I thought, “Maybe I’ll do this again next year as a personal kind of contemplative, reflective period.” But the next year, my dad was getting sick and I didn’t think I’d be able to do it. Then he passed away really suddenly and I had the following week wide open, and the only thing on the calendar said “walk.” So, in the aftermath of his death, I went off and did a solo version of it, with some friends who joined me on the last half-day leg. It was such a gift of time and space to do it alone, to have time to sort of process an intense period of family health stuff. At that point, I’d done it twice, so I was like, “Well, I guess I’ll do it again next year, put it on my calendar. This past year was the fifth year, and I threw the invite open a little bit more broadly as sort of a public RSVP. In the last half day, I had 20 people following me out of the airport, which was kind of amazing. Could you talk a little bit more about the walking kits that participants will receive? After they register, how do they receive the kit and begin their journey? The kits will be available for pickup from my porch in late August. Inside are passports being made by the folks at Fireball Printing, who are great. They’re stitched with red thread and really lovely objects. The maps are the basic, laser-printed kind. I’ve hidden a couple little hints—there’s one for each leg of the journey. There’s a couple little treasures that I will highlight on the map, vaguely from my own experience of this walk, but part of it is that
I’m not providing turn-by-turn directions. One thing I’m really trying to stress is that part of this is about wayfinding, part of this is the fact that if you overlay everyone’s GPS tracks, they will not match. At some point, we might all be walking down the Delaware River Trail or the Schuylkill River Trail, but there’s a lot of places where people are going to have different obstacles or different comfort levels or make different choices. One person will want to walk in a creek bed and another person will walk on the sidewalk, and another person will follow a road closer into the city. There’s no wrong way to do it. It’s all about your own experience and your own exploration. You’ve done the perimeter walk five times and you’re doing a sixth over another 5.5 days this September. If you complete the entire 100-mile perimeter in 5.5 days, that means you’re doing 18.18 miles on average per day, right? Yeah, and most of the days are like 20 miles and then the last day is less. In the maps, I’ve broken the days down into some sub-segments: loose suggestions based on convenience. Or even what I think are convenient starting and stopping points where transit might be more accessible and whatnot. It’s broken down into 4- to 7-mile chunks for people who want to do smaller segments. But you can start wherever the heck you want and stop wherever the heck you want and resume whenever you want to. Where would you say the best starting point for beginners would be? There’s no best
place to start. I’d say go to the closest point to you. I’ve started at 61st and Baltimore, but that’s just because I live in West Philly and that’s what makes sense for me. Once a participant has completed their journey, what’s the next step? To participate in the Fringe, they don’t need to complete the whole journey. I’m hoping people will do at least a couple days, but you don’t have to walk the perimeter to participate in this. We’ll be inviting people to share photos and reflections and we’ll take all of that and splice it together into a little reel of everyone’s experiences and share that at the report back. There will be opportunities for people to connect around their experiences and discoveries and celebrate whatever they’ve done. What’s the future of Walk Around Philadelphia? I’m trying to raise a bit of money to be able to support more people doing this. Down the road, I’d like to find more contacts around the perimeter—of people and organizations and locations—where you can pitch a tent if you want to go contiguous rather than coming home at the end of the night. You touched on the stipends that are available. The registration for the event is on a sliding scale to support a breadth of participation. People can pay more and actually sponsor the journey for others, is that correct? Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s important to value my time and my work, but also, projects like this are meant to be accessible, so I welcome anybody who wants to either make a donation or pay the higher sliding-scale rate or become a backer on my website. Right now, I’m sort of self-producing, but I would love to have people join me in lightening the load, and helping make this more accessible to a broader range of people. For more information on this project, visit: jjtiziou.net/walk. S E PTE M B E R 20 20 G R I DP HI LLY.COM 25
EN ROUTE TO RECYCLE
Philadelphia residents can now schedule doorstep pickup of electronics and clothing
ooking to dispose of old cell phones that live in a drawer and collect dust? How about piles of outfits that no longer fit? The City of Philadelphia’s new partnership with Retrievr lets you do just that, all while abiding by social-distancing guidelines. Retrievr is a pickup service that allows residents to safely and responsibly recycle unwanted clothing and electronics from the comfort of their own home. The initiative came about through the city’s SmartCityPHL Roadmap program, designed to foster innovative solutions to city problems. On May 28, the partnership with Retrievr was announced via its Pitch & Pilot program, which encourages city workers and outside collaborators to brainstorm solutions to municipal challenges and test out various technologies. “Clothing and textiles are a big item that end up in landfills, and right now, there’s no systematic way to recycle those,” says Joanna Hecht, a Pitch & Pilot fellow. Every year, Philadelphia generates 1.5 million tons of municipal waste, according to CleanPHL. Without city-wide recycling efforts and anti-dumping plans, this number could rise considerably. Electronics and textiles amount to approximately 10 percent of the city’s waste stream, according to SmartCityPHL. Mother Jones reported 70 percent of toxins in landfills are from e-waste. In the United States, only 15 percent of textiles are recycled, leaving the rest to be incinerated or left in landfills, according to a 2019 report by the Environment Protection Agency. “Ultimately the goal is to create a mechanism that allows us to partner with the private sector to solve municipal challenges,” says Emily Yates, SmartCityPHL director. “We really want to create a mechanism that allows us to pilot and test out technologies and evaluate them so we understand what works and what doesn’t … this is our way 26 GR ID P H I L LY.CO M SEPT EM BE R 20 20
story by francesca furey
of being nimble to the need of innovation and really identifying great opportunities to partner with the private sector.” When Pitch & Pilot team members first came together to find a challenge to tackle, waste diversion “rose to the top,” Hecht says. The team saw that waste- and water-based topics were a key problem for Philadelphia residents. Battling waste diversion can be “tech-enabled” and can “align with the overall goals of the SmartCityPHL Roadmap, which are inclusive, equitable, collaborative and locally inspired,” Yates adds. “Water and waste have been identified as a key problem by Philadelphia residents in surveys,” Hecht says. “We have the
opportunity to not only address [waste diversion] and our broader goals by reducing the amount of waste that goes to the landfill, but also, I’m seeing an equitable solution that could be accessed by people all over the city.” The SmartCityPHL team saw that overcoming waste challenges would improve the quality of life for Philadelphians, and inspire sustainability and environmental practices. In December 2019, SmartCityPHL had an open call for companies to submit proposals with the focus of waste reduction and increasing waste diversion from landfills. More than 20 firms from around the globe responded to the Pitch & Pilot challenge. The first winner of the challenge was
Clothing and textiles are a big item that end up in landfills, and right now, there’s no systematic way to recycle those.” —joanna he cht, Pitch and Pilot fellow
P H OTO G R A P H Y A N D A R T W O R K C O U R T E S Y O F R E T R I E V R
A collector loads a bag of clothing into a truck.
Retrievr, a company that “returns value to unwanted clothing, shoes and electronics,” by offering contactless doorstep pickup, according to its website. Now Philadelphians have the opportunity to divert their waste from landfills. For those who want to get rid of unwanted clothes, computers and phones, this is good news. As a pilot program, pickups and recycling rates will be assessed so that SmartCityPHL collaborators can evaluate its impacts in city waste diversion. Retrievr is simple and accessible, Yates says. The company provides doorstep pickups for clothing and electronics, like laptops, desktops, televisions and air conditioners. The pickup service is free for clothing and small electronics; there is a small fee for larger electronic items. “Walking around the streets of Philadelphia, I constantly see people throwing stuff out in the trash—probably because we have no clue what to do with it,” says Yates. “There’s no additional cost to the citizens and it’s as easy as possible.” By dividing its service areas into regions and routes, and then designating neighborhoods for specific days of the week, the company can avoid wasting gas and schedule pickups in concentrated areas, Hecht says. The company will then identify any uses
before they recycle items. For example, Retrievr might resell certain items or recycle them for parts, according to its website. Hecht believes its responsible practices and efficiency in the recycling process makes it a perfect fit for the pilot of the program. Not only does Retrievr limit pollution caused by e-waste chemicals and discarded textiles, but it also promotes contactless sustainable efforts. In times like these, many of us are restricted in terms of sustainability. In this respect, Retrievr’s services are “well-timed,” says Yates. “A lot of other options for disposing [e-waste and clothing] responsibly, are just not available right now,” Hecht adds. For those looking to get rid of these items that are piling up in their homes, now is a great time to use Retrievr, Yates says. With the limitations put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, Retrievr paused its services until May 4 in order to protect its employees and introduce protective measures. Retrievr follows CDC guidelines and requires sanitization of its trucks, equipment and recyclable items. Yates believes that Retrievr’s services are more important than ever, as it promotes sustainability while remaining contactless amid the pandemic. “[COVID-19] has created a space for people to think more clearly about our environment and what we’re putting out there,” Yates adds. “I’m hoping that this translates to people being more conscientious about what they’re throwing in the waste stream.” During the pandemic lockdown, donation centers and charitable organizations were deemed nonessential businesses. As states and cities reopen, many are still cautious about trips that can increase exposure for themselves and others. Yates points out that unnecessary contact with others, like trips to donation centers, make many people uncomfortable. With a middleperson like Retrievr, citizens can limit personal contact while responsibly disposing of goods. “I think it just really makes it easy for people to do the correct thing with their waste … without any danger to your safety,” Yates says. Residents can visit retrievr.com or call or text “PICKUP” to 757-70-FETCH (757-703-3824) to schedule a pickup. S E PTE M B E R 20 20 G R I DP HI LLY.COM 27
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Twin sisters Imani (left) and Nia Mitchell stand by Cobbs Creek, which they’ve been studying and protecting as Watershed Stewards.
High school watershed program shifts to Zoom calls and poetry writing— but still instills real-world knowledge and skills story by siobhan gleason — photograph by rachael warriner
irtual learning may not seem optimal for interacting with the natural world, but for the teenagers in the Philadelphia Watershed Stewardship Program, digital instruction has been a source of empowerment. Now in its fourth year, the program has more stewards than ever before. Students from more than 40 high schools applied to the program to learn about watershed issues and to become advocates and changemakers. In previous years, the stewardship program, created by a partnership between nonprofit LandHealth Institute and the Philadelphia Water Department, has been almost entirely hands-on. Stewards have collected more than 600 30 GRID P H IL LY.CO M SEPT EM BE R 2020
pounds of trash around Cobbs Creek, operated the water department’s underwater rover to document unique environmental challenges in Naylors Run, and marked storm drains throughout Philadelphia. Now that the program has shifted to an online format, activities have changed, but the focus of the program has remained the same. “This year, we didn’t want to stop the program. We share videos with them that I shoot—videos of parts of Philadelphia. They can take virtual field trips and [participate in] interactive weekly Zoom sessions,” says Scott Quitel, founder and CEO of LandHealth Institute. The first half of the program focuses on the ecosystem around Cobbs Creek. Stewards
learn about stormwater runoff, local animal and plant life and the challenges of the combined sewer system. In the second half, stewards expand their focus to other parts of Philadelphia, as well as the surrounding area. As they gain knowledge, they gain the chance to share their experience and expertise with their surrounding community. Stewardship is the true focus of the program. “Our program’s not about becoming a scientist. Our program is about empowerment. We need knowledgeable stewards. We teach them how to teach others,” Quitel says. One of the best ways to learn and teach is by forming connections. Quitel has emphasized this by reaching out to various groups with a similar focus on water and ecology.
Even though we’re just kids, we understand that we’re advocates and agents of change.” —owen moss, Watershed Steward “If there’s something watershed related going on, we try to connect them with that. It opens up doors,” Quitel says. This year Quitel connected the stewards with Villanova professor Hezekiah Lewis and several Villanova students who participated in the filming of the documentary “From the Ground Up,” created by student production company Glass Rose Films. The documentary focuses on the unequal access to clean water in the Singida region of Tanzania. The stewards viewed the documentary and discussed it with Lewis and the student filmmakers. Watershed steward and 17-year-old high school student Owen Moss believes the film’s “unusual style” gives the residents of Tanzania their own voice. In the documentary, there is no narration or talking heads. Rather than taking an outsider perspective, the film observes without taking a stance. “The students were not there to give those people a voice,” Moss says. “They’ve already got a voice. Instead the film acts as sort of an amplifier.” The filmmakers “may be holding the microphone, but they’re not speaking into it.” Moss believes working as a steward is also a form of amplification. It is about advocating for change by giving people a chance to speak for themselves. The difference between clean water access in Philadelphia and Tanzania was also a part of the discussion between the stewards and the Villanova filmmakers. Many stewards were shocked to learn how much effort it takes to gather clean water in Tanzania. “It makes you think about how lucky you are to have running water,” steward and 17-year-old high school student Imani Mitchell says. Mitchell joined the Philadelphia Watershed Stewardship Program with her twin sister Nia. In previous years, the stewards interacted with neighbors and community members at in-person events. Although their interactions have shifted to a digital platform, their community building has not stopped.
“Before COVID-19, we used to go into the community, give out flyers, and host events at the Cobbs Creek Community [Environmental] Center, but we still are communicating with others,” Imani says. Through this communication, the stewards are able to share what they know, which is a central tenet of stewardship. “Giving kids a chance to practice talking to other people about things they’ve learned not only helps solidify what you know, but it also [is part] of being an advocate,” Liza Herzog, executive director of LandHealth Institute, says. Another form of communication—writing—is an important part of the Philadelphia Watershed Stewardship Program. Stewards are encouraged to write poetry, draw sketches and express their thoughts in their journals. In the first year of the program, the stewards’ journal entries were compiled to create a field guide for Cobbs Creek, which was printed and distributed. By making use of their online medium, the stewards found a new way to write. They created plastic-themed poetry in groups via Zoom, which can be found on the LandHealth Institute website. Moss and the Mitchell sisters assisted in leading the writing sessions. The activity served as a challenging icebreaker for the stewards due to the large group of participants. “It was a very good way for us to connect,” Nia says. “Leading a group writing session virtually was new to me,” Imani says. Though “the program’s group is big this year and we could not meet in person, we became closer.” The new virtual format of the program has opened it up to students from all parts of Philadelphia. When the program was originally conceived of, only schools in West Philadelphia advertised it to students. The focus of the program has not left Cobbs Creek, but it has widened in scope, highlighting environmental challenges Philadelphians face, regardless of neighborhood.
“Philadelphia has a long legacy of poor planning and mismanagement of land,” Moss says. “Many parts of Philadelphia have less than 10 percent tree canopy. Planting more trees can save hundreds of lives every year.” Moss points to a recent study published in “The Lancet Public Health” that estimates that more than 400 premature deaths could be prevented annually in Philadelphia if the city were able to increase tree canopy cover to 30 percent. (See pg. 12 for more.) Another environmental challenge caused by old city planning is combined sewer overflows, which occur during heavy rains. Most of Philadelphia operates on a combined sewer system, which means that stormwater and wastewater flow through the same pipes. To avoid overwhelming treatment plants during heavy rains, the combined stormwater and wastewater is diverted directly into local creeks and streams. The stewards witnessed just how quickly the combined sewer system can become overwhelmed by rain as Tropical Storm Isaias soaked Philadelphia in early August. “Our sewer system is one of our major problems,” Nia says. She believes the sewer system and lack of tree coverage across the city are environmental challenges that affect all stewards. The greater number of stewards in the stewardship program “hasn’t really affected our main focus. [Stewards] may be from separate areas, but they all face the same negative impact humans have on the environment,” Nia says. Quitel considers the program to be most effective when it focuses on the entire city. “Why not just do it at every watershed? We’re expanding the content we offer to accommodate anybody, anywhere,” Quitel says. As the summer goes on, the stewards plan to take part in a few outdoor activities, including canoeing at Glen Foerd on the Delaware and cycling through West Philadelphia. By social distancing outdoors, the stewards will be able to continue some of their hands-on learning. They will also continue to communicate with community members and groups with a common focus on the environment. “We’re not doing anything huge, but we’re driven to help in every way we can,” Moss says. “Even though we’re just kids, we understand that we’re advocates and agents of change.” S E PTE M B E R 20 20 G R I DP HI LLY.COM 31
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Food for thought A sustainability leader shares her expertise with Penn students “I have the best job,” marvels Linda Froelich, Global Sustainability Director and Responsible Care Coordinator of the Philadelphia-based FMC Corporation. This fall, Linda is bringing her experience in agriculture to a new course in Penn’s Master of Environmental Studies (MES) program. In Sustainable Agriculture and Product Stewardship, students explore “how to ensure a secure food supply for the world’s growing population, sustainably. That includes training growers to apply chemical pesticides responsibly and as part of a broader strategy of integrated pest management,” Linda notes.
Linda Froelich FMC Corporation
Virtual Café Join the MES program director from 12-1 p.m.
Linda has hired multiple MES graduates for her team at FMC and observes, “MES students are extremely smart, mature, and motivated. The program is well-rounded, and the courses are rigorous—which is a good thing because these jobs are not easy!” On the other hand, Linda concedes, sustainability jobs are gratifying. “I get to collaborate with people in board rooms, on the shop floor, and everywhere in between to make positive change,” Linda says. “And every year, we set the bar higher. The European Union aims to be climate-neutral by 2050, and I suspect that other regions will follow suit at some point. There has never been a more exciting time for students to launch a career in this field.”
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To learn more about Linda’s career in agricultural sustainability, visit: