By Michelle Soto
This past week my family came into town ready to work on the farm! Many of my memories of childhood involve helping my dad in the yard and in the garden. Every spring we’d get a load of wood mulch delivered to the house and I would use my child sized shovel and wheelbarrow to mulch the rose bushes and the edges of garden beds. I loved the smell of the mulch. It smelled woody and alive and signaled that spring was here. My dad’s biggest hobby was working in the yard, he’d come home every day after work, take a power nap, change into work clothes and spend the rest of the afternoon outside. He’s the type of guy who only has ONE kind of grass in his yard, and absolutely no weeds. Anywhere.
It was reminiscent of these afternoons to spend some days with him at Healcrest. His assignment: tree stump removal. And not just any tree stump. A 50 year old black locust (he counted those rings during a break one day) which was in the middle of our newest garden. While my dad worked on the stump, my mom and aunt weeded our garlic patch, which had mulched itself with garlic mustard plants. They caught them all before they went to flower, and the garlic patch is vibrant and sending up what soon will be delicious garlic scapes.
Other areas of the garden are quickly growing as the days and nights are warming up. The mints: lemon balm, peppermint, horehound, catnip, catmint, and chocolate mint are providing us with new herbs to harvest every week. About half of our seedlings are moved into the greenhouse and awaiting transplant. And of course, the lovely wild cherry trees are going to burst into bloom any day this week.
Till next time,
Michelle and the Farm Team
The EVE (Enlightened Voices for the Environment, http://www.cvvc.org/eveproject.php) Circle joined Healcrest earlier in the year but I was unable to post pictures, as they came from an amazing photographer and were originally posted in the Heinz Endowments Annual Report.
Well, these amazing women joined Healcrest again last evening for a fall dinner and discussion. We sat around the quiet farm as the sun was setting and enjoyed an amazing meal from Tana Ethiopian http://www.tanaethiopiancuisine.com/, as we shared our stories of health and wellness. These amazing women have come together through the invitation of Laverne Baker-Hotep (Well Woman Radio, Peace it Together Pittsburgh), http://www.cvvc.org/radio.php,
Together we share resources on environmental health, local and fresh foods and healthy eating, spiritual support for body, mind and soul and create a community of women that can take this information out to their families, their community and their city to ensure that women of color are on the forefront of the green movement!
This evening the women shared the beauty of Healcrest Urban Farms with garden tours, where we smelled and tasted all the delicious herbs sprouting in the gardens – asparagus, lemon balm, oregano, thyme, sage and lavender. We also munched on fresh chives and chocolate mint!
The women also buckled down and prepared two new gardens for seeding – together they planted okra and cabbage for this coming 2010 season.
Finally, as the sun was setting we shared in our Peace Meal of delicious grilled tofu for the Vegan’s and grilled chicken and a fresh crisp garden salad for all by Ola Catering and Rice and Cabbage by Tana’s Ethiopian.
It was an amazing time with this phenomenal group and we hope the beginning of a long and fruitful friendship. All EVE women are invited to continue to grow together at Healcrest. Peace and Blessings to our beautiful EVE women and children!
Healcrest Farm has been growing food and building relationships with our community since 2005!!!! It has not always been an easy road, developing those relationships. I have met many different people, of many different walks of life – from elders who grew up in the deep south and have lived most of their lives around fresh food, to youth who would rather throw an apple at their peers than eat it.
I have seen over 60 youth at the Farm in our summer internships and worked with 3 public schools in greenhouse educational programs. I am humbled at the progress that has been made in this small site tucked away on a hilltop in Pittsburgh.
I and this Farm might not be everything to everyone and often Healcrest UF falls short of being the local food source or the community-food educators or the neighbor we strive to be, but we never give up trying. Always with empathy to our neighbors unique experiences, to racial and social tensions, to all the things that oppress and strangle our communities and hold at arm’s length those things in Jah’s great earth that are LIFE. We press on.
Here is a small photo series of our times and growth so far. Enjoy!
Land b4 the Farm, 2004
Building the garden beds
Summer Inters Building the Shed, 2008
Students at the greenhouse
Youth hard-at-work planting in the spring