On Earth Day, Saturday, April 22, 2023, Westtown School officially announced its partnership with Christa Barfield, owner, and operator of FarmerJawn Agriculture. Earlier this year, Barfield joined forces with Westtown School leasing 123 acres to create an organic farm. Westtown families and residents from the surrounding community celebrated the new partnership this past weekend on the school’s campus. Attendees witnessed a special blessing by Lenni Lenape elders and enjoyed tethered balloon rides, hayrides, and a host of family-friendly activities.
Westtown School continues the intentional work of fostering equity, access, inclusion and belonging on its 600-acre campus where students learn, explore, play, and practice stewardship. Since 1996, a portion of the school’s land has been leased for farming. With the retirement of the previous farmer, the school began its search for a community-minded partner committed to a reciprocal, regenerative, and restorative relationship with the land. Westtown’s Farmland Task Force conducted a months-long search for a mission-aligned partner before discovering Christa Barfield and FarmerJawn Agriculture.
“The alignment of Westtown School’s and FarmerJawn Agriculture’s missions roots this exciting new partnership in shared vision, values, and goals,” shares Chris Benbow, Westtown’s Head of School. “Stewardship of the land, focus on community, and commitment to equity and justice unite our organizations, and are reflections of the Quaker values that guide and ground us here at Westtown. We look forward to working with Christa Barfield and FarmerJawn Agriculture, and to exploring and expanding both the opportunities for the surrounding community and for our students,” he continued.
Christa Barfield is a savvy, passionate entrepreneur and advocate committed to organic food and regenerative farming practices. In addition to FarmerJawn Agriculture, Barfield owns and operates Viva Leaf Tea Co. Her organization also includes a retail and garden learning center in Northwest Philadelphia, a community-supported agriculture (CSA) business, and five acres of farmland in Elkins Park, PA.
According to a 2023 PBS Newshour story, the number of self-identified Black famers in the United States has dwindled over the last century due to discriminatory practices by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Barfield’s vision to restore access to farmland and farming for Black farmers is both a timely and welcomed initiative.
“Through this partnership, we hope to curate school-based programming that will allow Westtown students to conveniently participate. Collaborating with them, sharing knowledge, and working together to build a more sustainable and just food system. We also believe that this partnership can be a powerful way to connect with and support other Black farmers by fostering equity, access, inclusion, and belonging”, says Barfield.
Originally cultivated by the Lenni Lenape people, the land around Westtown School has been farmed for centuries. Barfield will continue the tradition of farming the land and using the harvest to stock the farmer’s market located on the premises which will include community-supported agriculture (CSA), and organically prepared, locally grown foods and sourced products. The remaining acreage will be used as a “food and farming incubator” comprised of a host of cooperative farms operated by a cohort of Black farmers, chosen, and trained by FarmerJawn & Friends Foundation Fund, Barfield’s non-profit organization. The incubator model offers educational development opportunities and a pathway to entrepreneurship through sales at the farm market.