Few people are aware that our founder Stephen Girard was an agriculturalist – in addition to navigator, trader, banker, patriot and philanthropist – who was passionate about his farm in South Philadelphia.
Perhaps to honor the founder's interest in farming, perhaps to teach the students a practical skill, perhaps to provide fresh vegetables for the students' meals, the school has had a garden off and on during its 168-year history.
Today, the Girard College Community Garden is an important part of life on our campus.
The garden is used for hands-on lessons about photosynthesis, nutrition, life cycles and other topics. In the photo above, students and their teacher discover a praying mantis and benefit from an impromptu lesson about this elegant insect.
Today's garden has 20 plots managed by student interns, five community plots used by other members of the Girard family, a three-tiered composting bin, four newly planted fruit trees and an herb garden. Between May and October, 2016, the garden produced over 1,600 pounds of produce including okra, hot and sweet peppers, eggplant, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, lettuce, scallions, garlic, beets, carrots, bok choy, tatsoi, arugula, rosemary, dill, basil, mint, cucumber, and squash.All harvested produce was given to Dining Services for school meals, sold to the Girard College community as a garden fundraiser or donated to a home for low-income seniors in North Philadelphia.
PHOTO ABOVE: Girard College Garden 1915
From the "1848 Rules for Girard College:"
“[The President] shall suggest to the prefects, such rational and systematic plays, recreations and work, as will contribute to the health and amusement of the pupils and see that the prefects carry out these suggestions by frequent visits to the play ground, workshops, and gardens.”