For Jake Seltman, food is something more than just something you eat. It unites people who might disagree on just about everything else. "In our communities today, there's division for many different reasons," he explains. "One thing I see every day is that food connects us."
Seltman is executive director of Grow Pittsburgh, a non profit with a simple mission: teach people how to grow food, and promote the benefits gardens bring to our neighborhoods.
Their flagship garden is a full-fledged farm on an acre of vacant land in the once-booming steel town of Braddock, about 10 miles east of Pittsburgh. It's a place where fresh produce -- and hope -- were in short supply 'till this urban farm came to town.
Braddock Farms in Braddock is one of two commercial urban farms that Grow Pittsburgh operates. The other is Shiloh Farm on Homewood Avenue in the city's Point Breeze neighborhood. The produce grown there is sold at farm stands in communities considered "food deserts" because there's no grocery store nearby.
Operating the urban farms is just part of what Grow Pittsburgh does. They also do:
- School Gardens. From smaller learning gardens to full-fledged gardens at their four "flagship" schools, kids also learn about the science of growing and cooking food (teacher training included!)
- Community Gardens. Neighborhood cooperatives and those that provide mini-plots for individual families. Got one already? They'll help make it better. Want one? They'll help get you started.
- Backyard Gardens. No, they won't come to your house and plant it for you! They do have workshops and great on-line resources to show you how to DIY.
Want to see how community gardening is, well, growing in the Pittsburgh area? Click here to check out their growers map, and find a community or school garden near you.
"This work really brings us together across all our differences. It's really magical." Jake Seltman
If you'd like to get your hands dirty with people who have a real sense of community, you can become a member of Grow Pittsburgh, either by donating or volunteering or a combination. Click here to find out how.
Images: Grow Pittsburgh Facebook page.