INNOVATION AND GENEROSITY BLOOM IN PITTSBURGH
"We love you. We are praying for justice."
The note attached with every delivery of produce by Garfield Community Farm during the pandemic.
Community farms and gardens connect produce with purpose — and feed the spirit of giving alongside neighbors in need.
One of many community gardening success stories that bloomed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic was Garfield Community Farm, a Pittsburgh-based organization supported by the Presbyterian Hunger Program and generous gifts made through the Presbyterian Giving Catalog. The farm has supplied produce to feed its neighbors in predominantly low-income neighborhoods for years — and that mission was never more important than in 2020, when the pandemic created disruptions in traditional nutrition support safety net programs, sweeping job loss and economic hardship, especially in already vulnerable communities.
Rather than buckling under challenges posed by social distancing requirements and stay-at-home mandates, Garfield Community Farm rose to the challenge and stepped up its efforts to feed the families in its neighborhoods.
The farm more than doubled the number of households served through produce deliveries containing lettuce, kale, collards, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, herbs and more. Garfield Community Farm also experimented with distributing tomato seedlings for the first time. One recipient of seedlings was Phyllis Conner, a Garfield resident from birth who lives one block away from the farm. Never having grown vegetables before, she delighted in the small crop that rose from the five-gallon buckets she used as planters. Phyllis laughingly shared with a Community Engagement Coordinator that her grandmother had had a garden but forbade any of the children from helping out under the assumption that they would destroy something.
Other successes emerged in the midst of the adversities of 2020: Garfield Community Farm reduced its crop loss (due to pests and disease) by 80%, surpassed its 2020 estimate for seedling sales by 25% and increased its food pantry donations by 300%.
And when the COVID-19 pandemic created the need for Garfield to limit its market, the farm instead worked to increase the number of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscriptions offered, allowing them to more effectively ensure safe conditions surrounding CSA packaging and distribution. Because of that strategy, Garfield Community Farm doubled the number of its CSA subscriptions.
This incredible farm, a ministry of The Open Door Presbyterian Church, serves to remind us of the staggering resilience and ingenuity of people working toward the common goal of helping their neighbors.