Touring Grow Pittsburgh’s Braddock Farms

by Trip Leader, David Bennett

Myself and a team of trip leaders, were excited to plan a hike through Grow Pittsburgh’s Braddock Farms! Braddock farms is located in, of course, Braddock and is the site of an urban farm backdropped by the last remaining steel mill in the borough. Grow Pittsburgh uses it as a site to grow food, sell their harvest, and provide training and education. During the summer, local high school students get to work on the farm to learn team work, agriculture, and leadership.

Our hike started off with a really exciting encounter!

As we were visiting the memorial for the first and last steel slabs outside the Edgar Thomson Plant, Lt Governor John Fetterman walked over to greet our group and answer questions. He just happened to be driving by our group, and though he would stop by to say hi. It was the perfect beginning to a very magical day!

We explored Braddock for the next 2 hours, viewing the public art of James Simon and Robert Qualters, visiting the Carnegie Public Library on it’s 130th year anniversary, and passing by the Free Store, Brew Gentleman, Barebones Theater and Superior Motors.

But the best was yet to come.

We rolled into Braddock Farms and met with Robert Grey, the Farm Education and Outreach Coordinator for Grow Pittsburgh. During the tour we asked hundreds of questions, which Robert patiently and expertly answered.

The mission of the farm is primarily to serve the neighborhood of Braddock, but secondarily they share their excess to local Farm to Table restaurants. With up to thirty different crops, and multiple varieties amongst those, there is plenty to choose from. Kale, lettuce, strawberries, collard greens, and soon sugar beets, and sugar cane all grow in the farm.

There’s an educational piece, too, as Braddock youth get hands on experience learning how to do urban farming and the importance of eating non-processed vegetables. They also learn how their actions impact the larger food system.

Robert also showed us a seed germination chamber that was built by a staff member. The germination happens quickly, and Robert closely monitors the seedlings so they can be transferred to the sunlight of the greenhouse.  Even though it was early spring there was lots of things growing in the greenhouse, and Robert explained several tricks they use to save labor and produce greater yields. You’ll have to join a tour for those details. 😉

It was an exciting morning and we learned many things about Urban Farming and about some special research projects that were happening at Braddock Farms. There’s a lot growing at Braddock farms! Check it out!