Life, Faith and Urban Farming

The life and happenings of an unconventional pastor and urban farmer living in the city with a family of five.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Garfield Community Farm is Actualizing

This is a good time for me to think about this dream of creating an urban farm, think about where we started and where we are now. It was almost exactly a year ago that I was with BJ Woodworth on a beach in the Bahama's doing beach reclamation with folks from the Soularize conference, when this idea began percolating in our minds. Since then a lot has happened, way more than I want to write about now. Here are some of the exciting things that we've done over the past year and things we hope to make happen next year.

Here are some photo's of the land we'll be farming in Garfield, a largely abandoned and struggling neighborhood in Pittsburgh. Garfield is adjacent to East Liberty, where my family lives, works and worships. This year we acquired the land from the city, we're leasing it and working toward making it permanent community green space. In the photo's you notice the trees and forested areas. Its close to three acres of land. We're developing ideas to grow among the trees, creating gardens using permaculture methods of farming. Much of the land has knotweed growing on it, so we're still working to rid sections where we will then plant crops and trees. We're also making decisions about how avoid contact with soil contaminates, like lead.

The photos here show our fence that we've built to keep the deer out. This fence marks an exciting boundary, the area that will become the community youth garden where all the growing will be done in raised beds, keeping kids hands only clean, lead free soil. The area receives lots of sun and also has no knotweed to slow our progress. This past growing season was a fabulous learning experience for The Open Door. We have developed a team of folks who have learned to tend two smaller gardens, one at the Union Project and one at Valley View Presbyterian Church. Each Garden produced food that was used by folks from the two churches, and sold at Whole Foods.

Here are some goals for the next 12 months. We hope to:
1. Build all the raised beds for the youth community garden and have that space fully producing for the summer of 2008.
2. Through community input develop plans for the remainder of the land.
3. Hire a seminary intern and two neighborhood youth interns to work the farm through the growing season.
4. Weekly neighborhood and church volunteer days throughout the growing season.
5. Plant fruit trees in areas where raised bed gardening is less attractive.
6. Provide food for the Valley View food bank.
7. Start a farmers market at Valley View, run by our interns and volunteers.

Ok that's enough work to outline for now. Please come out and volunteer. And come to the Harvest Party on Friday Oct. 24th at the Union Project at 6pm to learn more about us.


Kyle said...

This is exciting news! I remember praying over that land just a year ago, so seeing the farm getting started is just awesome. Congrats!

Spencer said...


i love your story, thanks for the update - i look forward to your next post...