by Nicolette Spudic, Pittsburgh Food Policy Council
The Pittsburgh Food Policy Council (PFPC) and its Urban Agriculture Working Group (UAWG) teamed up with Grow Pittsburgh to create the Pittsburgh Growers Cooperative (PGC). Their pilot season launched this summer with be.wild.er Farm, Hazelwood Farms, Shiloh Farm (Grow Pittsburgh) and Rescue Street Farms.
The Pittsburgh Growers Cooperative provides resources needed by Pittsburgh urban farmers—including sales, distribution, and marketing services—so farmers can focus on meeting the quantity, consistency, and quality standards that purchasers require. Due to their lack of space or limited resources, a significant problem urban growers face is the inability to produce the volume of crops necessary to provide their customers with product consistently. Urban farmers have more opportunities to thrive by pulling resources and working together in a cooperative model to meet the needs of the market.
The PGC steering committee formed in fall 2015 and received support from New Sun Rising and Idea Foundry to explore how to make the growers Co-op a reality. After the successful completion of the 2017 pilot season, more growers will join the Cooperative including Black Urban Gardeners and Farmers Co-op (BUGS).
Steering committee member and PFPC Urban Agriculture Working Group Coordinator Karlin Lamberto sees the PGC providing tools critical to the success of farming businesses. “It’s exciting to see young farmers rethinking the rules around what it means to be farmers and engaging in broad collaboration to create a system that works for smaller—scale urban growers,” she says.
About the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council and the Urban Agriculture Working Group
The Pittsburgh Food Policy Council began in 2009 as a way to coordinate stakeholders and assist them in their efforts to catalyze change in the Pittsburgh regional food system. They work to build a food system that benefits the Pittsburgh economy and environment in ways that are just, equitable, and sustainable.
In 2016, the Urban Agriculture Working Group (UAWG) identified four quarterly meeting topics for 2017: soil contamination and remediation, land tenure, compost, and economic opportunities for urban agriculture practitioners. They hold community meetings to discuss these issues and provide support to Council members and the gardening and farming community as a whole. To further support these priorities, the UAWG has participated in Pittsburgh Land Bank Policies & Procedures development, the proposed Urban Ag Act of 2016 (for inclusion in the 2018 Farm Bill), and the PA Department of Environmental Protection Environmental Justice listening tour in Pittsburgh.
PFPC and the UAWG invite all those interested in becoming a part of the urban agriculture conversation to join the Working Group Listserv or attend our next meeting on September 12th from 9 am -11 am at the Energy Innovation Center (1435 Bedford Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15219).
The UAWG also holds quarterly community meetings throughout Pittsburgh. The next community meeting will focus on composting and is scheduled for September 13th from 6 pm – 8 pm at the Kingsley Association (6435 Frankstown Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15206).
Interested in becoming a supporting member of the PFPC? Visit www.PittsburghFoodPolicyCouncil.org for more information.
To learn more about the PGC, visit: sites.google.com/growpittsburgh.org/pgh-growers-coop/
Nicolette Spudic is the program assistant at the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council, where she provides administrative support to PFPC staff. She also owns Pick Your Poison Consulting, a company focused on providing brand development and start-up services to food-based businesses throughout the country.