Wilmington Gardens is a 50-acre certified organic farm that serves Pittsburgh and the Western Pennsylvania area, producing approximately 90 varieties of organic, non-GMO seedling plants for gardens and a dozen different crops that are custom grown and marketed nearly exclusively through the East End Food Co-op.
Owner and Operator Rick Contray established the farm in New Wilmington, PA, in 1991 and currently manages 3 full greenhouses and 4 acres of produce with the help of friends and family. Wilmington Gardens is best known for its garden seedlings, which you can find at the Co-op from the spring through the summer. In the Produce Department, you can find their zucchini, bell peppers, hot peppers, kale, eggplant, cut basil, dandelion, green beans, and zebra tomatoes. Customers are likely to see Rick outside the Co-op on Monday and Thursday evenings stocking the seedling shelves; he welcomes anyone interested in learning more about his farm to stop and chat with him!
How did you get into farming—what inspired you to start in this business?
I’ve always had a desire to live closer to the land and earth and try to be as sustainable as practically possible. In the ‘70s, I used to read the old, outdated Mother Earth News from the ‘60s.
What makes products from your farm unique?
Our greenhouses and farm fields are, and have been, inspected and certified as organic each and every year since 1991, which brings confidence to the customer that everything we do here is done under strict guidelines in order to be called organic.
What are you most proud of as a local farmer?
Being able to make a modest living off the land while doing as little harm to the environment as practically possible. I was also one of the first 20 certified organic farmers in the state of Pennsylvania, and still one of the very few certified organic farms in my county.
What is the biggest challenge of being a farmer?
Aging! My aching back!
What is a typical day on your farm like?
BUSY, BUSY, BUSY! From 7 AM until sometimes 9 PM.
What is your hope for the future of your farm?
That it can remain as an oasis for wildlife and a greenspace for many years to come.
What is the most important thing for customers to know about your products?
RC: That their support of certified organic farmers allows me and others to remain in business as a real alternative to mainstream, chemically-laden, and GMO produced faux food!