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Meet Our Community Partner: Paul Wilkinson of Mogreena

Nestled into a little corner of Modena is Waste Oil Recyclers, a green company that picks up used cooking oil from restaurants and recycles it into biodiesel. Another company, Organic Mechanics, shares the property as well; they make organic potting soil, compost and other gardening products. These two eco-minded entities have apportioned some of their compound for container gardens, an initiative they call the Mogreena Garden Project.

Mogreena consists of nearly half an acre of container garden plots, peppered across the old industrial property. The garden manager is Paul Wilkinson, a part-time employee of Waste Oil Recyclers (he’s also a musician!), who’s been a fixture of the project for some time. Paul began as an employee at Organic Mechanics as a production manager, and enjoyed growing veggies in the containers that some of the other garden-minded employees constructed in 2009. Mogreena became an official nonprofit project in 2013, and Paul became the garden manager in 2016. “Just as the gardens have grown, I grew with them, and took the position when it became available,” he says.

In addition to being a cool project, Mogreena is a community partner of the Chester County Food Bank. Paul plants the garden beds each season with seeds and starters from our Raised Bed Gardens Program, which he says is an enormous logistical and financial help. “It’s huge—working with the Food Bank helps immensely to keep all the gears moving.”

Mogreena then pays it forward by donating back hundreds of pounds of harvested produce to us, to help continue our mission of providing healthful food to our neighbors in need. Mogreena is also host to our Fresh2You Mobile Market on Thursdays from 1:30 – 3:00pm.

Paul is tasked with helping Mogreena to flourish—not just the gardens, but also the community that’s sprung up around the project. Mogreena works with the Coatesville Youth Initiative, an organization that places high school students in different companies to gain work experience in the summertime. Mogreena oversees four students for eight weeks in the summer, and Paul works with the teens, teaching them gardening skills, as well as problem-solving, teamwork and personal responsibility.

One Tuesday per month, Mogreena hosts Garden Nights, where volunteers are invited to come help harvest produce, enjoying a meal and live music as they work. Summer fresh fruits and veggies like chard, kale, lettuce, beets, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and okra are pulled from their earthy beds, and while some is donated to CCFB, some is saved for the Coatesville Youth Initiative kids. In addition to gardening, cooking education is part of their experience, too. They are taught how to prepare and cook all kinds of dishes with their harvest—sometimes even under the supervision of real chefs.

“Since Waste Oil picks up the veggie oil from different restaurants, we’ve had different chefs come out and cook for the kids,” Paul notes. “Chefs from High Street Café, Tired Hands, La Cabra Brewing … it really helps the kids see what the garden food can become.” In July, chef Alex Shimpeno of Shimpy’s BBQ visited (read a recap written by the kids here), as did chef John Hearn of La Cabra Brewing Company. La Cabra made a great video to recap the day, which you can check out here. Every October, Paul helps to organize an end-of-season Harvest Art Party; this year’s event will take place on Tuesday, October 17 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. and will feature local artists, music, wine tastings and food. Keep an eye on Mogreena’s Facebook page for more info and updates about this inspiring CCFB community partner!

Want to learn more? Sign up for our newsletter and stay connected. You can also donate foodfunds and time to help us achieve our mission. Call (610) 873-6000 to speak to someone about getting involved or request a tour. Thanks to you, we’re growing a healthier community.

The Chester County Food Bank is the central hunger relief organization serving more than 120 food cupboards, meal sites and social service organizations throughout Chester County. We mobilize our community to ensure access to real, healthy food.

Emily Kovach

Photos, top to bottom: Scott Clay; Mogreena (next three photos); Scott Clay; Mogreena