#winteratGP 2017

Every winter, we we get the same question: What do you DO all day? Just because we aren’t harvesting plants in the sun, doesn’t mean we aren’t doing lots of work to prep for 2017.

Jake Seltman is making the transition from Director of Educational Programming to our new Executive Director. He’s passing his old responsibilities to other members of staff and learning his new ones, including meeting with foundations and community partners. As a whole, the organization is working on internal promotions and filling vacant positions.

As Jake transitions to Executive Director, Christina Bard is also in transition! Previously our Office and Membership Manager, Christina is now Grow Pittsburgh’s Development Manager. On top of moving into her new role, Christina has been processing all of the donations we received at the end of 2016.


Jim Rowell is acclimating to his new role as Director of School programs. He’s been visiting the garden educators at their schools and helping them to teach classes. Jim has also spent time on Skype, getting to know our national partners at The Kitchen Community. The school gardens team is preparing to launch the application for the next round of new school gardens.

Denele Hughson

Another promotion at Grow Pittsburgh was Denele Hughson, who is now the Director of Farm Education. She was recently getting the word out about Grow Pittsburgh at the Fairmont downtown.

Eva Barinas, School Garden Coordinator, has been counting all sorts of seeds! To save in packaging and shipping costs, Eva purchases bulk seeds which need to be divided and sorted, then distributed to the appropriate school gardens via Garden Educators for all of 2017. She has also been updating school garden maps, binders, lesson plans, and the school gardens website.

Teas made by students with Michelle Soto

Garden Educator Michelle Soto is teaching herb classes in middle and high schools this winter! In her life outside Grow Pittsburgh, Michelle is the proprietor of Cutting Root Apothecary and she applies this knowledge to her classes. Students are tasting calming teas, tea to fight colds and flus, making cough syrups, and bliss balls (aka, high protein energy snacks).

Designing learning gardens

Carla Lukehart, our Learning Garden Project Manager, has been creating lots of landscape designs for our Learning Garden schools! Winter is an excellent time for landscape design. “When cold weather brings building and growing to a standstill, we spend our days planning gardens to be installed and planted in the warmer months,” she said. The team is currently finalizing and sharing designs with schools that will be installing a Learning Garden for spring planting. They are also meeting with school garden teams who are applying for Learning Gardens to be planted in the fall.

Paul Pagoda is a garden educator at Pittsburgh Colfax and Pittsburgh Montessori School. All garden educators extend their learning from the garden into the classroom and right now, that means cooking and tasting food that typically grows in the garden. Just last week, Paul made miso soup with sweet peas and green onions. Soon, they’re making sushi rolls! Garden educators often design their cooking programs around what students are learning in their other classes.


Community Gardens

Allegheny County Conservation District testing soil samples
Allegheny County Conservation District testing soil samples

Russ Thorsen recently joined the team as the new Community Garden Coordinator. He’ll attend garden meetings with Rayden Sorock and AJ Bisesi. On top of getting Russ up to speed, the Community Gardens team is hiring a new Garden Resource Center Coordinator. The team recently attended the Summit Against Racism on January 21st.

A lot of planning happens during the winter months. AJ said she reflects on successes, challenges, growth areas, and the gardens in general. Like most of the staff, she places a lot of seed or seedling orders. The team will be hosting a How to Start a Community Garden intensive workshop for new program participants. They hosted representatives from Allegheny County Conservation District for soil testing.

Director of Community Projects, Marisa Manheim, is working on city-wide policy issues with the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council Urban Ag Working Group and planning the Pittsburgh Urban Growers Coop pilot launch this spring.

The Community Gardens team met with their counterparts from Western Pennsylvania Conservancy to discuss changes to the Community Garden Sustainability Fund. Stay tuned for big changes!



Nick Lubecki, manager of Shiloh Farm and the Frick Greenhouse, is planning the 2017 seedling sale and placing orders for seeds, fertilizer, and other supplies. For Nick, this involves looking at least years numbers to add or drop varieties, working with crop rotation plans, and evaluating soil tests. He’s also doing a small amount of winter greenhouse growing for the Frick Cafe and for an educational program that takes place in the Greenhouse.

Marshall Hart has been busy on Braddock Farms. Like everyone else, Marshall does a lot of planning and ordering during the winter. He’s also been growing mushrooms inside! Outside, he’s been making compost and tending to the chickens who live at Braddock Farms.

Announcing our new Executive Director

bf-12Grow Pittsburgh is pleased to announce our new Executive Director, Jake Seltman!

Jake is our current Director of Educational Programming and has been with Grow Pittsburgh for four years. In that time he has been instrumental in significantly growing the organization and our educational offerings, including our partnership in the Learning Garden program with The Kitchen Community.

“Working at Grow Pittsburgh alongside such an amazing staff and greater community has been the highlight of my professional career,” said Jake. “It is an honor and privilege to step into this leadership role in support of all of the great work that we do and I look forward to continuing to share my passion and belief in our mission and values as Executive Director.”

“Our search process brought forward many qualified candidates but Jake stood out from the start with his education background, urban gardening knowledge, and genuine passion for the mission and values of Grow Pittsburgh,” said Shannon Anglero, Chair of the Executive Director Search Committee and Vice Chair of the Grow Pittsburgh Board of Directors. “We have no doubt Jake will successfully lead Grow Pittsburgh though our next chapter, and we are excited to work with him to promote our mission and vision within the community.”

We are excited to have Jake take the lead at Grow Pittsburgh beginning January 2, 2017. Our current Executive Director Julie Butcher Pezzino will be working alongside Jake early in the year to assure a smooth transition. Stay tuned for more updates, and congratulations Jake!

Goodbye to a good friend – Susanna Meyer moves on

Susanna in Greenhouse_FotorIt’s time to say goodbye to our Director of Agricultural Production, Susanna Meyer, after 10 years with Grow Pittsburgh.

Susanna began her career with Grow Pittsburgh co-managing Mildred’s Daughters Urban Farm. She then moved onto managing the Frick Greenhouse in Grow Pittsburgh’s first year working there. After the organization began growing at Shiloh Farm, that became part of Susanna’s duties as well. She then became Production Manager, helping to oversee the management of those sites as well as Braddock Farms. For the last several years, she has served as Grow Pittsburgh’s Director of Agricultural Production, overseeing all production sites and writing the Urban Harvester and Info Hub sections of the website.

“This was my first job in my career,” said Susanna. “I think I was able to grow alongside the organization which was kind of a cool fit. There seemed to always be a spot for me in this organization.”

Susanna is now co-managing a farm in Washington County, Pennsylvania with her husband. She’ll be the field manager, getting her hands back in the dirt. She’s excited for the opportunity and grateful for her time at Grow Pittsburgh.

“I’ll miss the people,” she said. “Grow Pittsburgh has such a great team and it’s the reason I’ve stuck around as long as I have. I think being at Grow Pittsburgh has made me a more well-rounded person.”

Catching up with community gardens

Hazelwood YMCA Community Garden
Despite the recent news that the Hazelwood branch of the YMCA will be closing at the end of June, the garden continues to be a source of healthy food for the community and a space for working and learning. Through a partnership with Hops on Lots, there are now hops growing in the garden on a low trellis system. This year, volunteer and intern support has been more consistent and very much appreciated. The goals for this year are to improve the water and irrigation system and take steps to bring the greenhouse back into production so that it can be a community resource. If you are interested in volunteering at the garden, please contact Hanna Mosca at hmosca@ymcapgh.org.


Martin Luther King Jr. Community Garden
mlk1The MLK Community Garden kicked off its second garden season with a May Planting Day Celebration complete with food, music, a new gardener orientation, seeds, and seedlings grown at the Frick Greenhouse! With more than 37 gardeners caring for individual plots and the Community Farm, the garden is defeating groundhogs and quickly growing greens, herbs, garlic, tomatoes, and caring for 15 new fruit trees donated by the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation. Exciting projects this year include developing a natural play space for youth, water catchment system, planting perennials, and restoring the outer hillside with canopy trees.

Northview Heights Community Farm

northview2The Northview Heights community is excited to be breaking ground on their community farm this summer to serve as a place for residents of all ages to gather, grow, and combine their histories of gardening in Africa and the United States.  Gardeners hosted a Garden Kick-Off Celebration in April and have been designing the garden layout to reflect their vision for the space.  The vacant field is quickly becoming a community space as gardeners construct picnic tables and mark contour lines for garden beds!




Crafton Community Farm
crafton2In the midst of another successful year, the Crafton Community Farm started its second growing season early and has created a beautiful space full of asparagus, peas, radicchio, tomatoes, beans, herbs, and more in a space that was a sand volleyball court just over a year ago!  The produce grown in the farm, and on the newly planted fruit trees, is donated to the Crafton-Ingram Food Pantry and distributed amongst farm volunteers.  Gardeners look forward to a water catchment system being built this summer with the help of Stormworks and continuing their monthly potluck and garden workshop nights at the farm.

Sharpsburg Community Garden
sharpsburgThe Sharpsburg Community Garden is a second-year allotment garden that is starting to embrace its community spirit. Through the support of Allegheny Grows and Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG), the gardeners of Sharpsburg were able to install an additional four raised beds this year—two for allotment gardens and two for community gardens. The community gardens are being managed by a local church, with the bulk of the produce being donated to community members.




Whitehall Peace & Community Garden

whitehallWhitehall Peace & Community Garden is a new community garden that came about through the partnership of South Hills Interfaith Movement (SHIM), Whitehall Presbyterian Church, Giving2Grow and Allegheny Grows. Despite a challenging landscape, the gardening group—primarily comprised of residents of Whitehall Place Apartments—has rallied together to transform the space into a gardening oasis. Produce from this garden will serve two local food pantries in addition to the volunteers of the garden.

Turtle Creek “Home Plate” Garden
turtlecreek1This year, the gardeners of Turtle Creek “Home Plate” Garden converted an out-of-use baseball field into an impressive growing space that includes raised beds, in-ground beds, a perennial garden, an herb garden, a children’s learning garden, and a “three sisters” patch.  This garden will be managed by volunteers and the bulk of the produce will benefit the local food pantry.  The gardeners are already dreaming big for next year!  They have plans to put in fruit trees, a brick oven and a picnic area.

Community Garden Sustainability Fund Recipients

This year the Community Garden Sustainability Fund received 37 applications and we will be implementing projects for 32 community gardens throughout the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. Projects include replacement raised beds, groundhog fencing, consultation and workshops, seedling gift certificates, community-garden-level yearly fees for the Garden Resource Center, a waterline installation, compost, and more!Congratulations to all of the awardees!

African Liberation Garden
Amity Harvest
Angora Gardens
Ballfield Farm
Bellevue Community Herb Garden
Boxy Caufield Memorial Garden
Centre Ave YMCA
Frazier Farms
Garden of Etna
Garden Table
Garfield Farm
Good Neighbor Garden
Homewood-Brushton YMCA
Jubilee Kitchen Garden
Larimer Community Garden
LOCG – McCandless
Masjid al-Mu’min Madjinah Garden
McKeesport Kiwanis Garden
Mount Oliver Borough
Propel Homestead
PSU Edible Teaching Garden
Rosalinda Sauro-Sirianni
Sankofa Village Garden
St Clair Organic Garden
St Marks Church
Swissvale Community Garden
Tarentum Friendship Garden
The Gardens of Millvale
Westinghouse Academy
Zen Center of Pittsburgh Community Garden

The Community Garden Sustainability Fund is a project of Grow Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.