Hilltop Urban Farm is the largest urban farm in the U.S. People in Carrick and other Pittsburgh, PA neighborhoods can rent small plots of land to grow their own vegetables and fruits.
The nonprofit city farm has 23 acres of farmland being developed to address food insecurity in hilltop communities. Another 67 acres of hillside is undeveloped on purpose. Acreage is set aside for green space and future housing. Pittsburgh Arlington K-8 elementary school is across the road. Lighthouse Church sits on a slope above it. The farm is situated in the St Clair neighborhood, a small residential community near Carrick. St Clair Village public housing used to be there.
An acre of the farm is set aside as a youth farm. Hilltop Urban Farm partnered with Pittsburgh Arlington K-8 and Lighthouse Church to teach school-age children about growing food, nutrition and cooking. The curriculum for the youth farm program is taught in school, at the farm after school and in summer camp. It was developed with Grow Pittsburgh, Allegheny Land Trust Education Department and Penn State Extension.
Students from other schools can tour the youth farm, learn about growing food and be given healthy snacks to take home.
The farm trains new farmers in a program called Farmer Incubation. In a hands-on urban agriculture program that lasts three years, adults can rent a quarter-acre of farmland, have access to tools and supplies for a flat fee, and be taught how to start their own for-profit businesses. Through the program, those new farmers learn the Penn State Extension’s curriculum for new farmer training. It is the first urban farming training program of its size in the country.
Hilltop Urban Farm has an orchard. 200 fruit and nut tree were planted. Eventually the orchard will bring in money when the fruits and nuts are sold to wholesalers or through local farmer markets.
A section of the farm has been set aside for immigrant farmers. Bhutanese and Somali people who have moved into the area can grow food as a community.
Urban farms are about city people in America being able to eat more vegetables and fruits. The practice of urban farming goes beyond growing food – it also involves processing and distributing locally grown food in cities. People who grow, process and distribute food develop a social network. It can lead to sustainable urban development along with access to healthy food.
In other, larger cities, empty lots or abandoned city blocks are turned into urban farms. Generally those farms are nothing like the size of Hilltop Urban Farm, which has 107 acres.
The youth farm, farmer training program and orchard were requested by people in the community as the Hilltop Alliance explored the possibility of building an urban farm. After planning, land was acquired. Preparing a site where people used to live involved removing old building foundations. Brush was cleared away. The soil was managed to make it better for farming. It was tilled. Organic mushroom compose was added. Cover crops were planted to improve the soil. A water line was installed for irrigation. Solar panels were put up. Fences were erected to keep out deer.
Hilltop Urban Farm is a project the Hilltop Alliance, an organization that analyzes the challenges faced by people who live in Carrick, ten other hilltop neighborhoods and Mt Oliver, and studies the resources available to address those challenges and improve the quality of life in the Hilltop.
Hilltop Urban Farm is a nonprofit organization. Many local organizations combined to make the farm possible. It is located at 700 Cresswell Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15210.