By Hidden City Philadelphia’s Cary Betagole – Of all the Philadelphia restaurants that have joined the burgeoning farm-to-table movement, Marathon Grill was perhaps the most unlikely. The local chain of high-volume, casual eateries is better known for serving turkey club sandwiches and cobb salads than for the provenance of its vegetables.
But on an overcast Monday in late March, 2011, Marathon Restaurants president Cary Borish was in Brewerytown for the launch of Marathon Farm. The ambitious plan called for selling half the farm’s produce at market value to Marathon Restaurants, and selling the other half at affordable prices to neighborhood residents via farm stands. A section of the farm would be set aside for community gardeners, and Borish pledged to invest $100,000 in infrastructure, community programing, supplies and a farm manager.
The project had the support of city officials, including Mayor Michael Nutter, who spoke at the ribbon cutting for the 15,750 square foot lot on the corner of 27th and Master. The City, which has owned the triangle-shaped parcel since the 19th century, leased the land to Marathon Loves Philly, a non-profit created by the politically connected Borish. The price was a dollar a year, according to several sources. After the three year term was up, a longer lease would be discussed if everything went well.