One Of The Largest Urban Farming Communities In The Country Might Be Created Where A Public Housing Complex Once Stood

Pennsylvania might soon be the home of one of the largest urban farming communities in the country, according to a nonprofit organization that has set its sights on land where a public housing complex once stood. A 61-year-old St. Clair public housing complex was demolished four years ago by the Pittsburgh Housing Authority. The vacant land is a 107-acre parcel that Hilltop Alliance would like to turn into Hilltop Village Farm. Hilltop Village Farm would include 120 townhouses, an urban farm, a youth farm, and a community-supported agriculture farm.

“It’s definitely a significant plan, but it’s not going to be easy,” Aaron Sukenik, executive director of the Hilltop Alliance, told Trib Live about the urban farm plans. The Housing Authority will begin accepting bids on the St. Clair property in a few months.

Urban farms provide fresh local food and food security.
Hilltop Village Farm would be built upon the vacant land where public housing once stood — seen here on Google Earth.

“We want to be a good partner with the local community, and we’d like to do another urban project like this, so [Hilltop Village Farm] is of high interest to us in that regard. It also has an urban agriculture component, which is of interest to us,” Christopher Beichner, executive director of the Allegheny Land Trust, said. The Allegheny Land Trust would purchase the property and Green Development LLC would build the for-sale townhouses if Hilltop Village Farm comes to be, according to Trib Live. Grow Pittsburgh is currently a consultant on the urban farm plan.

“There are quite a few young people in the area and [the need to provide] opportunities for young people is something we’ve heard time and time again in consideration for this site,” Julie Butcher Pezzino, executive director of nonprofit Grow Pittsburgh, told the Pittsburgh City Paper about a benefit of the urban youth farm plans. The youth farm would take up about an acre of the site and would provide community teens a healthy outlet for socialization and teach them a valuable skill. The Lighthouse Cathedral would operate the youth program.

“Being able to grow food close to home, either knowing who grows your food or you actually grow that food yourself, is seen as a benefit to a lot of people,” Pezzino said, explaining that urban farms are a fast-growing trend sweeping the nation.

Though the Inquisitr has featured several stories about the challenges that urban and backyard farmers in Michigan have faced recently, municipalities of the nation are increasingly on board with the idea of urban farming. In Arizona, scientists from around the country even visited the site of a small urban farm created from the ruins of an old swimming pool.

[Photo via Hilltop Village Farm plans/ Grow Pittsburgh]

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