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.