Big news!  Grow Pittsburgh is excited to announce that Garden Dreams Urban Farm and Nursery is now USDA Organic Certified! This marks a significant milestone for our organization and will help pave the way for promoting organic growing practices for other urban growers in the region.

Since 2020, Grow Pittsburgh has operated Garden Dreams. In 2022, we started growing in our new greenhouse, germinating over 30,000 seedlings each year and providing an abundance of fresh local food for community members. Not only does this space serve as a place to grow seedlings, but it is also home to our youth job training program, an urban farmer workshare program, and educational workshops that support the strong network of gardeners and urban farmers throughout Allegheny County.

One of the reasons we have been working towards organic certification is to help empower local farmers and growers with the knowledge and resources they need to transition towards organic farming methods. We are excited to share the many benefits of organic growing, including environmental sustainability, personal health, and more! We undertook this so that we can see what the process looks like for a small farm and then share out the knowledge we gained throughout this process. 

If you’re an urban grower curious about pursuing organic certification, please reach out. We’ll be offering a workshop soon to share lessons learned along the way. 

Before Grow Pittsburgh was given the space, Garden Dreams was an organic-certified private business owned by Mindy Schwartz, a founding member of Grow Pittsburgh. Since we began managing the space, we have used un-certified organic methods of growing as we do at all of our urban farms. We are excited to have Garden Dreams seedlings certified organic again!

Grant funding from Pennsylvania Certified Organic allowed our staff to dedicate the last several months to researching and working towards organic certification for our greenhouse. This process has been led by Sarah Vandermolen, our Organic Certification Coordinator and a long-time seasonal staff member at our Shiloh Farm and greenhouses.

One of the most exciting parts of the process was realizing that we didn’t have to change any of our systems to get certified! That was a big win because it confirmed that we have been doing the right things all along at all of our farm sites. We did learn that a few products that say “organic” on them are not truly a part of the Organic Materials Review Institute so we switched to different products. 

Sarah VanderMolen at Frick Greenhouse

“More knowledge about growing sustainably and growing organically is going to be a win for everybody,” said Sarah. “We hope to share our process with other farmers who are interested in getting certified.”

We are excited to share more about what we have learned throughout this process. We aim to sow the seeds of a more sustainable and resilient food system for generations to come.

Photos courtesy of Nancy Andrews