What’s Spirituality Got to Do With It?

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Rania Campbell-Cobb and Clare Hyre in West Philadelphia

As some of you may know Cloud 9 was fortunate enough to receive a Clarence and Lilly Pickett Endowment for Quaker Leadership grant in 2013. What, you may ask; does rooftop agriculture have to do with Quaker leadership?

Well, it actually has a lot to do with Quaker Leadership. The founding of Cloud 9 Rooftop Farm came from a leading of us (Clare and Rania) in 2011. A leading is a sort of a feeling, followed by individual and group discernment, that a project or idea is valuable and worth pursuing. Rania and I had a leading while sitting in a sunny room on a Sunday (we should have been in Quaker Meeting) and we were struck by the need to start a farm in Philadelphia. We knew that land was challenging to access and could be taken away at any minute. We thought about community gardens but we decided we wanted the farm to be more based on education. Then, as if reading our minds an email popped up on the computer asking if anyone was interested in starting a rooftop garden in West Philadelphia.  Yes, we though … let’s start a rooftop farm.  It will be new, unique, and the first one in the city. It will be a inspiration for other folks, educational, and a leader in the Philadelphia food movement.

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Rania Campbell-Cobb and Clare Hyre present at a Young Friends Conference


That first site in Southwest Philadelphia did not turn out to be the best location for a rooftop farm. Neither did the second site in Northwest Philadelphia. But our community did not give up on us and has encouraged us to keep pursing rooftop farming! Members of West Philadelphia Worship Group have joined our support committee and we have been invited to speak at many Young Adult Friends (YAF) events as well as Guilford Alumni events. People all over the country have shown us great support by urging us to continue on. The Clarence and Lilly Pickett Endowment are one of those groups who continue to support us. They have made it possible for us to begin this season building a Cloud Mobile, a traveling planter prototype that will demonstrate different components of rooftop agriculture. They have also made it possible for us to build a small demonstration garden.

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Cloud Mobile building party


Sometimes when looking back on where Cloud 9 began I also remember a class I took in at Guilford College with Max Carter. The class was Quakerism 101 and it was there I learned of SPICE, which is the acronym that stands for all the Quaker testimonies. SPICE stands for the testimonies of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, and equality. After learning these testimonies we added that the S in SPICE also stood for stewardship, taking care of the earth and it’s people. It feels so important to have a spiritual relationship with our work, as well as practical one, and it’s wonderful to have the Quaker testimonies to guide us.

Thanks to the Clarence and Lilly Pickett Endowment for Quaker Leadership for allowing us to follow our spiritual leading.  We plant to continue working with all sorts of folks to educate around rooftop agriculture.


Thanks, the Cloud 9 Team


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