Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and urban farming within city limits is a way to get fresh and seasonal food in every Pittsburgher’s backyard. The goal of these green fingers is to find fresh and healthy foods. With 1 in 5 city residents facing food insecurity, having places to grow affordable food is critical to our communities.
What is a CSA?
Although we can imagine what a farm is, not everyone understands urban farming or CSA – especially if there is a farm like this right in your community.
The concept of Community Supported Agriculture is about paying a membership where you get parts or products from a farm or group of small growers. As a CSA member, you’re supporting local and regional farmers, and in return, you’ll receive a box of food and fresh produce every week, fortnight or so. month depending on the program.
Not only are many of these CSA programs helping to bridge the gap between the garden and the kitchen, but growers are also helping to fight food insecurity and addressing the issues facing our local community.
Pittsburgh City Gardens
Located on Beltzhoover Road in downtown Allentown is the Clay and Fertilizer Farm. Not only do TayRay and Raynise Kelly sell houseplants to fellow plant lovers, but they are also involved with the community garden non-profit, Grow Pittsburgh. The Kelly sisters are inspiring future sprouts with their Sprout Summer Camps, encouraging kids to learn about playing in the dirt.
Through its educational programs, Grow Pittsburgh builds a community that provides innovative and affordable products. Educating backyard gardeners and encouraging urban farmers to put fresh food directly where it’s needed.
Bridging the gap between what grows in the soil to what appears on your plate, Amboy Urban Collective is introducing Filipino food to Pittsburgh from the ground up, literally. Founder Rafael Vencio was born and raised in the Philippines and loves seasonal food with a South Asian twist. If you can’t snag one of his CSA portions, be sure to check out Vencio manning his stand at the Lawrenceville Farmers Market.
Hilltop Urban Garden uses 107 acres of land dedicated to growing produce and community through agriculture. Not only do they grow local produce, but they also participate in agriculture-related education for both adults who are interested in agriculture and youth. The significance of Hilltop is that the community of St. Food deserts are low-income communities that do not have easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Urban gardens like Hilltop can provide these areas with plenty of healthy food.
Garfield Community Farm is another permaculture paradise that offers learning opportunities through workshops and volunteering. In addition to its CSA subscription, Garfield Community Farm provides monthly donations to the Valley View Church Food Pantry.
Get your hands dirty a little and dig into Steel City Spore, Pittsburgh’s urban spore farm. This McKees Rocks area is established and continues to be farmed making it easy to find good game. Additionally, Steel City Spore is expanding with a new location in Rockwell Park across from the East End Food Co-op in North Point Breeze. You can’t find his fresh mushrooms at urban farmers markets, but you can pair them with 3 Rivers Outdoor Co. on guided hikes to learn more about food and safe farming.
How you can help
Food security and social justice go hand in hand. In addition to joining a CSA and volunteering at a community garden, consider donating to 412 Food Rescue, which helps end food waste and stabilize the local food safety. The program takes surplus food and redistributes it to unemployed partners who are in need.
Grow Pittsburgh often hosts volunteer-related events and other gardening-related events. In the past, the nonprofit has partnered with the East End Food Co-op, PASA, and the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council. Follow Grow Pittsburgh’s event page to stay informed.
For more information
If you’re looking for more CSAs around Pittsburgh, check out this comprehensive list published by VisitPittsburgh. Local Harvest also offers an informative directory, not only showing where to buy local produce through community farming and farmers markets. For local resources and events featuring local CSAs and growers, follow Farm to Table Buy Local. Promoting local organic farming and improving access to fresh, healthy food, the nonprofit runs an annual conference, serves 30 counties in Western Pennsylvania and publishes a Western PA Local Food Guide.