Victory Garden

5/26/2017

Summer 2017

There’s something special growing in West Philadelphia.

Nestled in the lush forests of rural New Jersey, Camp Sojourner is a 2.5-hour drive from Philadelphia, but a world away from the economically challenged neighborhoods that most of its campers call home. And while it offers typical outdoor activities, such as hiking and swimming, “Camp Sojo” gives girls aged 8-16 something more: the tools to make a positive impact on their own lives and their communities.

Director Alisha Berry, a former teacher, founded the week-long summer camp space – named for famed women’s rights activist and abolitionist Sojourner Truth – in 2008. Thanks to support from the Subaru of America Foundation, the Philadelphia-based organization has since expanded to offer a host of year-round activities, including an urban farming program at Philadelphia’s Bartram’s Garden, the nation’s oldest botanical garden. For the past four years, through the Farming in the City initiative, Camp Sojo girls have had the opportunity to plant, tend and harvest organic produce at the garden’s Community Farm and Food Resource Center.

Alexa Diggs, 11, at Farming in the City.
A mother and daughter team spreading mulch at Farming in the City.

The 30-35 girls enrolled in Farming in the City each year participate in workshops on everything from health and nutrition to food sovereignty and food justice. And last summer, Subaru provided paid summer internships that allowed Camp Sojo teen leaders to earn money by selling organic produce at affordable prices from a farm stand in a food desert – an area that lacks access to fresh, wholesome food. 

Farming in the City has taught me that if you work with care and passion, you can do anything.

For Berry and the girls, Farming in the City has been a win-win opportunity. “When the kids are picked up at the end of the day, they’re just bubbling about their experience,” says Berry. And along with learning about mulching and mustard greens, they also learn something about themselves. Participant Alexa Diggs, an 11-year-old from Northwest Philadelphia, says, “Farming in the City has taught me that if you work with care and passion, you can do anything.” 

Learn more about Camp Sojo.