Urban Farming

Pittsburgh's Urban Forest One of the Largest in the Country

Oct 3, 2014
Corey Cousins / Flickr

As the colors of autumn entice us to do some foliage watching, many people in Pittsburgh need look no further than their nearby neighborhoods.

According to the U.S. Forest Service and the University of Vermont Spatial Analysis Lab, 42 percent of Pittsburgh is covered by tree canopy. That’s more than green cities like Portland, Washington D.C., Austin and Philadelphia. Despite our reputation as an industrial town, Pittsburgh has one of the largest urban forests in the country. So how did these forests form? What is an urban forest and where can they be found?

Allegheny County’s master gardeners will have a chance to show off their green thumbs and celebrate gardening with an expected 1,000 visitors at the 8th annual Garden in the Parks event Saturday.

The event will take place near the demonstration gardens in North Park and South Park from 9am to 1pm.

Throughout the day, approximately 30 Master Gardeners will be at each site to offer tours of the gardens, answer questions, organize games for children, raffle off gardening tools, and host taste-tests.

Colony Collapse & the Buzz on Beekeeping in Pittsburgh

Jul 7, 2014
Justin Leonard / Flickr

Two years ago we took a look at the world of urban farming in Pittsburgh, with a focus on beekeeping in particular. As in many cities, those who want to build apiaries in Pittsburgh have had to jump through various bureaucratic hoops and deal with the myths and fears surrounding honeybees.

President Obama recently stressed the importance of preserving our honeybee populations for the sake of food security. And the White House has even announced plans to form a task force to investigate honeybee colony collapse.

With renewed attention on the decline of pollinators, Steve Repasky, President of Burgh Bees and David Tarpy, Professor and Extension Apiculturist in the Department of Entomology at North Carolina State University are working to preserve the honeybees in Pittsburgh and the rest of the country.

Repasky said the local laws for beekeeping have not changed within the last two years, and the rules for keeping bees are pretty strict. But he thinks there has been a good push for positive change in Pittsburgh, and hopes to get a change in the urban agriculture ordinance.

Garfield Farms

From the country to the city, many urban dwellers are beginning to develop self-sustainable farms in the backyards of their Pittsburgh apartments. These “city farms” engage communities in the farming process and improve nutrition to citizens that do not live near a grocery store or market.

Small gardens and urban livestock such as chicken and bees can be found on balconies, roofs and oftentimes in revitalized vacant lots.

Heather Mikulas works in local food infrastructure and agricultural entrepreneurship for the Penn State University Extension Office in Allegheny County and helps backyard farmers develop their own agricultural techniques. She says that everyone has a different reason to start planting an urban garden, but anyone can do it.