Using the concepts of the food hub movement and drawing inspiration from models used in cities across the country, the Pittsburgh Urban Growers Cooperative (PUGC) has emerged through the leadership of Pittsburgh Food Policy Council (PFPC), Healcrest Urban Farm and Grow Pittsburgh as a way to address the primary gaps in our urban farming system and make it more economically sustainable to be an urban farmer so that more may enter the field and find success. The PUGC steering committee formed in Fall 2015 and teamed up with New Sun Rising to explore the opportunity. The PUGC is exploring new funding and is prepping to launch in Spring 2017.
In the last 10 years, urban farming has experienced a huge surge in popularity, but the reality is that earning a sustainable income from urban farming remains a dream for most practitioners across the country, including in Pittsburgh. The appetite for local produce in Pittsburgh is high and growing, with chefs and other consumers consistently indicating a preference for local produce grown by farmers they know and trust. However, the small scale of urban farms makes it challenging to supply the consistency and quantity that these consumers require.
While many propose scaling up urban farms so they can compete with larger, rural producers, the “micro-farms” propagating in the urban environment have many advantages including small workforces and low overhead, flexible product lines, and very low transportation costs. Furthermore, these spaces provide important opportunities for supplemental income and part-time employment for many urban dwellers, many of whom would not have the transportation to reach rural farms.
In order to fully realize its objectives, the PUGC wish to include and elevate all urban growers who wish to build more economically, environmentally, and physically/emotionally sustainable farm businesses. If you are an urban grower in or around Pittsburgh who grows or raises food for sale – now or in the future – please provide us with more information about your project by taking this survey.