John MacDuffie Woodburn

Slide 1

Growlots is a solution to the rampant vacant lots in Philadelphia that effects the surrounding communities. As this process builds and strengthens gardens, it also has the capability to strengthen communities, while simultaneously providing them with fresh food and vitality.

Growlots, with the pooled information from UNI (Urban Nutrition Initiative) and PHS (Pennsylvania Horticultural Society), introduced the concept of Green Resource Centers that would supply outlying community gardens with supplies and services in exchange for a portion of the satellite gardens’ crop output.

Slide 1

Green Resource Center concept was only the tip of the iceberg. Sometimes the community gardens would revert back to vacant lots. This happens as a result of poor communication between gardeners/farmers, organizations, city departments, and local businesses. Is there a tool that could help solve this?

Growlots Philadelphia network communication tool was then developed to help alleviate the communication disconnect between urban agriculture community in Philadelphia.


Down ABOUT "Growlots"

Growlots started from the summer research conducted by Megan Braley and Victoria Perez, then evolved during StudioNEXT (5 week charrette), and fine tuned into virtual network and toolkit for Philadelphians


This project gave me the opportunity to co-lead a team of students in a collaborative effort to design a cohesive plan for Farm Centers to be built on vacant lots existing within Philadelphia. Our aim was to address the lack of accessibility to fresh produce in low-income communities, while simultaneously beautifying the city and involving the community.


The project began in the Kensington community, one of the poorest areas in Philadelphia. People living in this community are extremely neglected–to the point that they live in a food dessert. Vacant lands run rampant in this community. As a result, there is increased crime, depopulation, depressed local economy, and lower health standards. Could the idea of a network of community gardens and urban farmers be the answer?



The process of design thinking allowed us to gain a new perspective on the needs of the Kensington community and even Philadelphia on a whole.


Numerous observations and interviews were conducted:

- Kensington community members

- Garden and Agricultural Program Directors

- Government Officials




My team and I were able to synthesize all of the information gained from the research, observation, and interviews into 4 key needs shared by each group: green jobs, increased communication, city beautification, and the development of vacant lots.





Information mapping allowed us to re-present the data in a clear, concise way.


Based on these four, shared needs, my team and I designed a plan called Growlots Farm Center. This plan would be built on the numerous vacant lots throughout Philadelphia’s under-served neighborhoods. The Farm Centers will act as central hubs for organizing food production, creating green jobs, community building, and education. These centers can connect with local restaurants, businesses, and schools to improve food accessibility and healthy living.



This Growlots Farm Center evolved into a virtual network/toolkit.



Growlots Philadelphia is collaborative content management system that acts as an organized resource database and a social networking communication tool for nonprofit organizations, city government departments, farmers and gardeners working in Philadelphia’s urban agriculture movement.


Click here to be linked to the Growlots Philadelphia network/toolkit.



People, initiatives, and organizations did not communicate or even collaborated. This often lead into people re-inventing the wheel. This this was the real problem. As Mark, farm director at the Urban Nurtition Initiative (UNI), stated: "I want to be able to catalog my experience and other people's experience in order to not re-invent what other people already know or have been doing."


Growlots Philadelphia is what Mark truly needed (not a Farm City). This network communication tool helped bridge the efforts of individuals, groups, organizations, and departments into a cohesive, unified voice for Philadelphia's urban agriculture system.



Studio Next (Growlots) In collaboration with Senior Industrial and Multi-Media Design Students.
Victoria Perez, Megan Braley, Kim Forsythe, Jared Delorenzo, Wes Thomas, John Pender, Elissa Meyers, Adam Rusiski, and Angela Latini










  • Below is the StudioNEXT booklet describing the Growlots project