FarmerJawn’s Forecast

Christa Barfield, founder of FarmerJawn, seems to stay in near-perpetual motion. Since we last chatted, she’s made huge strides in multiple agricultural initiatives, including the FarmerJawn CSA production, the Westtown market, CornerJawn corner store in Kensington and plans for an agricultural research hub in West Chester. Oh, and she won a 2024 James Beard award, one of the most prestigious food culture awards in the nation, for her achievements as an emerging leader.

We caught up with Barfield about what’s happening with FarmerJawn, a sneak peek forecast for the season ahead, and what she’s feeling most excited about!

FarmerJawn Christa Barfield Westtown West Chester Store CSA

PA Eats: Can you catch us up on FarmerJawn happenings?

Christa Barfield: We’re growing at both of our farms [Elkins Park and Westtown]. Healing the land is a top priority. Elkins will be certified organic by the fall of 2024 and Westtown in the fall of 2025. We have planned for 64 acres across both locations for this season that we’re farming between vegetable production and grain. Our veggie production is rolling and this is our first year harvesting grains — rye and barley. We’re working with a malt house to do a first collaboration on beer.

Our West Chester market’s grand opening is on May 24th. We’ll be open five days per week and increasing that to seven when the kitchen is fully operational. We’ll be providing a very nice menu. People can come to us to shop for produce and then grab breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s a grab-and-go style and food that’s organic and grown with health in mind. 

In Philadelphia, we’re working on CornerJawn. I’m really excited about it. There’s nothing like it. It’s under construction and moving along. The design and build team is just waiting for their turn and the design is beautiful. For now, development is still working on things. 

The corner store is a staple of the community, especially in urban communities. Growing up, I’d always grab a quick item or lunch there. I remember a hoagie, chips and juice would be my standard before a school field trip. So, we’re recreating that with a healthy mindset. Food is medicine. We have vendors that care about where their products come from and who work with local farms. People need to know where their food is coming from, and every corner store will have a growing space attached. We have 3,000 square feet of growing space directly on the back of the first store and we will have seating. We want everyone to understand the connections between food and farming. 

In Elkins Park, we have our learning and teaching farm. It’s one acre with a focus on education. We work directly with Power Corps, with people who are revitalizing their lives with skills for the outdoors and urban agriculture. We’re teaching them trades and we’re honored to have taught six different cohorts in the TRUST (The Road to an Ultimate Successful Transition) program.

There’s also the Agripreneur Program, which is the nonprofit side [of FarmerJawn], focusing on allowing people to find us and having resources to train the next generation. The US agricultural census results for 2018 – 2022 came out in 2023, and we lost, nationwide, 6,000 Black-owned farms. Even before I knew that, I was doing this work, and now it’s even more important. We need to get people interested in agriculture, to train them properly and to get them into professional roles. So, FarmerJawn is happy to take land people may want to provide so that we can pass it on to the people that we train. 

At the end of the day, we have to get the land back into the hands of the people who want to farm, who care about agriculture. 

FarmerJawn Christa Barfield

Can you share a few things that are coming up this season?

In Westtown, yes, the store is opening, but our biggest focus is how we can engage with the community and create new things that don’t exist. We have an 18,000-square-foot space and we’re going to make it a hub for all ages and families to be able to come and learn about agriculture research and innovation. We were awarded a $657,000 grant through Chrissy Houlahan’s office that she’ll be announcing on May 10th at the farm. I’m really looking forward to getting that rolling. We’re in search of a donor or company to help add more dollars. It’s about a $3 million dollar job, if not more. But, the Congresswoman believes in the project and got us the first chunk. 

CornerJawn is revolutionary. It’s meant to be a multi-site project and the first site is in Kensington. Drexel did a study ranking the health of all the Philadelphia neighborhoods and Kensington was the lowest, so we’re starting there. We’re working on putting CornerJawn in multiple places to measure the impact, and the research center in Westtown will be utilizing that research and data to help us deduce and see how we can multiply these across the state and into other states. 

One of the most exciting things, besides winning a James Beard Award, was that W.B. Saul High School reached out to me to deliver their commencement address. That, to me, is the highest honor. When we’re talking about Black and brown farmers in the mix, they can see me and I can let them know that, with the education you’ve gotten, you can be an agriculturalist, you can work in animal science, you can work in horticulture. You can do this as an actual means. 

FarmerJawn Christa Barfield

What’s FarmerJawn growing? 

This year is the largest melon harvest yet. We plan to be the tri-state’s go-to for melons. That is the goal. We have melons of all colors. Our focus is on seeded melons, but we will have some seedless, too.

We’ll also have corn. We’re looking to have three varieties to start with: white, yellow and bicolor. 

Our tomatoes will be unmatched. We have almost the whole rainbow. 

We’re hitting the ground running all season! 

FarmerJawn Christa Barfield corn

What do you see happening in the industry at large? What movements excite you?

There is a lot of movement in Congress where our voices are being heard. They want our input on the Farm Bill. It’s overdue, so there’s still some time to have discussions about what we need. Many farmers don’t have matching funds or can’t pay to unlock grants. It’s moot to apply for a grant you can’t activate. 

Congress and the Senate are understanding where the pain points are, and we can tell the farmers we’re training that we’re setting them up for success. It’s about maintaining a business. Through the Agripreneur Center, we want to create business owners, leaders and even management who understand how a farm is supposed to run. So, I’m excited that our voices are being heard in Congress and in the House. 

FarmerJawn Westtown West Chester Store

To join FarmerJawn’s farm-fresh 2024 CSA, select from the full season, spring or summer shares for Sunday and Wednesday with pick-ups throughout Chester, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. If you like keeping your options open, grab a Farm Share Card to pick your own weekly haul! You can keep tabs on FarmerJawn events like the Farm Boot Camp fitness series through its website, and follow along on Instagram to stay connected.

  • Photos: FarmerJawn