The Story of the Farm
Growing up 20 minutes north of Pittsburgh, my grandfather, Ralph, instilled in me a love of both the outdoors and the arts. My knowledge and love of growing, composting and preserving food all began with him. If we weren't working in the yard, we were painting, drawing, taking photographs, playing the piano or sitting at the kitchen table whittling. My grandfather's creative influence propelled me to study Graphic Design at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
After graduating I moved to Los Angeles in search of a wider job market. I was able to pick up enough freelance clients to where I wasn’t tied to the big city and so I moved to a rainy mountain slope on the north side of Maui. While living and working on a small, family owned, poultry farm, I learned the ease of growing food on a tropical, rain filled plot and it fueled my desire and confidence in a life of agriculture. For three years, I became accustomed to working with plants all the while studying the blight of the American Industrial Agriculture system.
With a strong curiosity in how our country feeds itself and living in a place surrounded by water, I became interested in the commercial fishing industry of the Pacific. Thought this, I heard of the Pebble Mine project in Bristol Bay, Alaska and the threat it poses for the world's supply of wild caught salmon. Ready for a change and looking to pursue my love of photography I decided to investigate the world’s greatest salmon fishery and see for myself what would be lost at the expense of the mine. While looking for a place to stay in the heart of the commercial salmon fishing world, Dillingham Alaska, the first welcome I received was from a family of 3rd generation fisherman. They offered me a place to stay in exchange for working their garden and greenhouse while they were out on the boat. With very little access to store bought goods in rural Alaska, 12 fisherman depended on me to keep the garden working throughout the fishing season, to harvest and store food for the long winter, from root cellar crops to foraging wild berries.
Those three golden summers, eating nothing other than what came from the ground or rivers, gave me a level of health and balance in my life that I have never experienced before or since.
When I returned to Pittsburgh in 2013 to visit my soon to be nephew, I found a completely different city than the one I had left. All of a sudden every neighborhood had its own farmer’s market, there were farm-to-table restaurants popping up all over the map, and I found a City Planning Department with a strong emphasis on fostering a local food system. I quickly realized Pittsburgh was the place to create a farm of my own.