A burial ground, what?
The Friends Southwestern Burial Ground is located in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania- just over the border from Philadelphia. It is a 16-acre burial ground, intended for laying Quakers to rest simply and naturally- with things like biodegradable coffins instead of concrete grave liners. While there are around 4,000 graves on the property- there are also beautiful trees and places to find moments of quiet in the midst of busy city life. The Friends Southwestern Burial Ground is open to the public, and from my visit I observed that it was as much a burial ground as a lovely green space. A dear Philadelphia friend of mine clued me into this place, and the queer folks who grow food there.
Hello Nancy (left) and Margo (right). Nancy had heard about the Friends Southwestern Burial Ground Garden years ago and jumped at the opportunity to grow food there. Now she trades taking care of the land and growing a beautiful garden for use of the space. Can anyone say sweet deal? I would call these folks subsistence farmers- they grow a lot of food that they eat, and give the rest away locally to places that will use it. This mini-farm was pumping out a lot of food.
Lettuce and onions being staked for seed saving.
Swank cabbage patch, me doing some shooting.I spent some time talking to Nancy, one of the farmers who had been growing food for a long time, she had even run a small CSA operation off of this land a few years back.. When we first met, she told that she wasn't sure she qualified to be a part of the project as she has been living a heterosexual lifestyle with a husband and child for many years. However, after talking with her for a while it was clear that she did. She told me about some of her experiences being confused in public for a different gender because of her queerfabulous gender presentation and gave me a great run down of her very radical thoughts on gender.
It was a serious pleasure to interview Margo, a queer and mixed cultured identified farmer while they were doing some mulching. One of the things we talked about was WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) and what its like for queer people trying to navigate that particular program which connects willing volunteers to organic farm work around the world. If you are queer and you want to be in a safe place, its sometimes hard to gauge from the often vague descriptions of the farms what the environment will be like.
My brief visit to this place left me feeling as happy as Margo looks here, and was a nice metaphor for queers in agriculture- that there are unanticipated things in places you might not expect.
I also want to give a shout out to Chris, an amazing African-American gay farmer who I spent a long time interviewing in his West Philadelphia home while I was in town. I wasn't able to visit his site, a public high-school where he runs the garden and works with inner city youth, but look out for him soon on video!