by Sara Curnow Wilson

College of Liberal Arts alumnus Alex Epstein ’14 is planting more than one kind of seed in North Philadelphia. Epstein is a co-founder of the Urban Creators, a group that turns neglected land in North Central Philly into urban gardens and farms.

This Saturday, Epstein and the rest of the Urban Creators will celebrate the second annual HoodStock festival. HoodStock pairs a neighborhood-wide service day with live performances, local art, fresh food and community design activities. Stic.man of Dead Prez will be among the performers.

Urban Creators is a youth-led Philadelphia organization founded in 2010 by Temple students and other North Philly residents who saw a need to connect their physically adjacent but socially isolated communities. The organization brings organic produce to areas where healthy food is hard to acquire and teaches communities about sustainability and social entrepreneurship. Their hope is to put into place an infrastructure that will nourish the community for generations to come.

The group had humble beginnings. Recalling their history, Epstein explains that much of the first year was spent going door to door to gauge community interest. The second year was perhaps even less glamorous.

“We spent our second year clearing away debris and remediating the soils of a former garbage dump,” he says. In their third year, this land was successfully transformed into their urban farm—and venue for HoodStock—Life Do Grow.

Now, five years later, the Urban Creators has created a network of urban farms and gardens that spans nearly four acres. For both the Urban Creators and the community, that land is much more than just a garden.

“We are able to offer local residents safe spaces to gather, cultivate fresh produce and celebrate community,” Epstein says, adding that the farms also serve as training grounds for younger Philadelphians interested in creating similar spaces in their own neighborhoods.

HoodStock will take place on July 25 at Life Do Grow Farm at 11th and York Streets. From 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., the Urban Creators welcome volunteers for neighborhood service. The concert and festivities begin at noon.

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