It’s an overcast Friday afternoon in Larimer. Dan Dalton carries a five-gallon bucket heaping with wood chips in each hand across the grass at Grow Pittsburgh’s Garden Resource Center. Dalton, a resident of Morningside, is the Three Rivers Hub Manager for the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA), a partner organization that works to build a more economically-just, environmentally-regenerative, and community-focused food system through education and research that directly supports farmers. In his role, Dalton oversees PASA’s educational programming throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania and manages the organization’s diversified vegetable growing apprenticeship statewide.
He’s also a home grower himself, among the hundreds of other backyard and community gardeners who take advantage of the Garden Resource Center’s attractive offerings. Dalton’s methods are slightly unconventional however. As he carries his monthly allotments of wood chips, compost, and topsoil, it’s not to the trunk of his car he is taking them to haul home. Rather he dumps them out in a trailer attached to the back of his bicycle that he built himself from coroplast and metal framing on top of a Surly flatbed trailer in 2016. Originally built to bring his pet greyhound Waldo on long bike rides, Dalton now also uses it for hauling all kinds of things. Though today he’ll ride back to Morningside with an impressive 25 gallons each of wood chips, compost, and topsoil in tow, he admits that it doesn’t compare to his heaviest haul of 450 pounds last summer.
Dalton’s involvement at the Garden Resource Center and Grow Pittsburgh doesn’t stop at him being a user. He also serves on the GRC Advisory Committee, a group of users who discuss and govern long-term steering of the tool lending library, as well as on the Urban Soils Working Group, a coalition of nonprofit partners dedicated to education and improvement of soil health in our city, of which Grow Pittsburgh is also a member. And Grow Pittsburgh and PASA regularly partner on PASA’s CRAFT (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training) workshops, with at least one CRAFT workshop happening at the GRC every year. This year, that workshop was “Tools for Small Farms”. “If you want to get poetic about it,” Dalton says, “cities tend to be places where new growers incubate themselves before maybe moving out to start a farm in a more rural area and the GRC supports that continuum of new farmers learning in our city”.
Dalton’s comments highlight the importance of the GRC as a resource and community for growers in Pittsburgh. However, in its busiest season since its inception, we need your help to continue providing high quality experiences and valuable education for our users. Learn how you can get involved today, whether it’s volunteering your time in a weekly shift at the GRC, or your knowledge on the Advisory Committee or at our Ask A Gardener days, we want you!