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Urban Farming And Gardening Flowered In Pittsburgh During The Pandemic

A backyard garden in Pittsburgh's Brighton Heights neighborhood.
Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
A backyard garden in Pittsburgh's Brighton Heights neighborhood.

Grow Pittsburgh saw an increase in demand for locally grown food over the past year, according to executive director Denele Hughson. Her organization sold more than 20,000 seedlings in 2020, a new record for the group.

“The pandemic...really highlighted the struggles that our local food system and the food system in general sees,” Hughson said.

Grow Pittsburgh combatted those struggles by growing staple crops on their farms, located predominantly in communities of color, and by donating around 3,000 pounds of produce to local food banks. The organization also increased food production and delivery, lengthened its farmstand hours and opened a new store at Braddock Farms.

These efforts contribute to the organization’s mission to teach people how to grow their own food and increase access to fresh, locally grown food.

“I always say: Urban farming, it can be anything from growing a tomato in your backyard to an acre large farm,” Hughson said.

Long-term struggles of urban farming in Pittsburgh remain. Along with contaminated soil from the city’s industrial past, Hughson cited pressures from development. Grow Pittsburgh partnered with the Allegheny Land Trust to found the Three Rivers Agricultural Land Initiative, which will secure and protect green spaces for years to come.

The Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative awarded more than $1.2 million in grants to Allegheny County in 2020. Part of the COVID-19 Relief Fund, the awards supported local farms, markets and co-ops.