Today, we bring you a guest post from Rev. John Creasy of Garfield Community Farm, an urban farm located in the Garfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh. He talks to us about the difficulty of accessing healthy, fresh and affordable food in many of Pittsburgh's neighborhoods, and how urban farms like Garfield Community Farm can help close this gap.
Urban farming is one way to begin solving the problems of a lack of access to fresh food in many urban neighborhoods. Many people don’t understand there’s a problem, especially in a neighborhood like Garfield or Larimer. Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Giant Eagle are only a mile or two away from either of these two neighborhoods. But for those living without access to a car at the top of the Garfield hill in the new subsidized housing, a trip to the supermarket can be a major undertaking. Larimer is just far enough that walking becomes quite an endeavor.
Imagine a single mother with two small children walking down the steep hill to the bus stop, taking the bus to the closest market and back, and then trucking it back up the hill, where busses rarely come, with bags of groceries and those two little kids. Not easy. What is easy is to walk to the only corner store in the neighborhood and get some cheap hot dogs and white bread, maybe a few bags of chips. Options for fresh and healthy food don’t exist.
For the past five year’s Garfield Community Farm and hundreds of other urban farms around the country have been attempting to fill the void of food access in their own urban neighborhoods. Garfield Farm fulfills its mission of getting fresh organic produce to its neighborhood through a farmer’s market on the hill top, a 20 family CSA (which includes families from the larger neighborhood) and by donating our produce to a food pantry that is walking distance for many carless families.
For many urban farms (really just small or medium sized gardens) the food we grow doesn’t go far enough and so urban farms are partnering with other local farms, non-profits and organizations to create more food access. Partnerships are therefore bridging these larger food gaps in our local food systems. For instance, the Pittsburgh Food Bank runs a number of farm stands, some in partnership with urban farms, to make local rural farm products available in some of our poorer neighborhoods.
Urban farms not only create an access point for healthy food, they also exist for purposes of ecological restoration in abandoned urban areas and educational hubs around nutrition and ecology. Through urban farming, once blighted acreage where drug deals and prostitution constantly took place are becoming like the garden of Eden (on their best days). Of course considerable work is needed consistently to transform an abandoned city lot into a beautiful garden, but work also creates pride and a sense of accomplishment. Urban farms can help youth of a neighborhood take part in something they can be proud of, something they can call their own, and something that is bigger than themselves.
You can get veggies from Garfield Community Farm at the farm stand at Valley View Presbyterian Church on the corner of Aiken and Black Streets in Garfield every Wednesday from 3pm – 7pm starting June 12th.