Monday, September 19, 2011

Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank's, Kerri LaCharite and James Harrell, Jr., speak!

Hunger and food access affects one in every seven people in the United States, a total of 14.5% of households.  Fresh produce is often the hardest item for families to obtain and purchase.  At the same time 12% of produce goes unharvested due to the cost of labor, market price of produce and other factors.  Kerri LaCharite, Produce Specialist at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank will speak about local and urban agriculture initiatives and volunteer opportunities in South Western Pennsylvania and James Harrell, Jr., Regional Coordinator of the SW PA Food Security Partnership, will speak about the Southwestern Pennsylvania Food Security Partnership at the October 3, 2011 meeting of Sustainable Monroeville between 7:00 and 8:30 PM in the downstairs program room of the Monroeville Public Library. Free and open to the public. Join Us!

The Southwestern Pennsylvania Food Security Partnership was formed with the understanding that a unified approach is the way to make substantial progress toward eradicating hunger in our region.  Strengthening communications, sharing resources, identifying gaps and forging new collaborations throughout the Partnership’s network is their methodology.  It is an approach one set of authors recently described as a “collective impact” rather than an “isolated impact” strategy.

 Below is a more detailed link to the Pittsburgh food bank website which shows the types of work that the Partners have been doing in Allegheny County as well as the entire region.

Melons surrounded by Marigolds to stave off extraneous large critters in the Monroeville USDA People's Garden, September, 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Stormwater Management and a USDA People's Garden!

At the first meeting of Sustainable Monroeville in February of 2009, we worked to start two committees, one to begin a rain barrel revolution in Monroeville, and the other to learn how to design and implement 10' x 10' biointensive gardens in our suburban yards. Those specific projects have not happened yet, but we did spark a permaculture-style vegetable garden project at the Monroeville Public Library that is planting the seeds for helping us understand how bioswales are important in stormwater management and much more. The garden is now a People's Garden. The People's Garden is an initiative of the United States Department of Agriculture "that encourages government and other organizations to create gardens to benefit the community." (People's Garden takes root beside library, Pittsburgh Post Gazette 9-15-11, EZ-2 byAnne Tubbs,)  The Crossraods Food Pantry and the Pitcairn Food Pantry are receiving the bounty of the Monroeville People's Garden. Here's today's article in its entirety by Annie Tubbs of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:

Between the library and the senior citizens center in Monroeville lies a two-row garden of flowers, vegetables and herbs.
It's the brainchild of Monroeville Councilwoman Lois Drumheller, who wanted to establish a People's Garden -- a U.S. Department of Agriculture initiative that encourages government and other organizations to create gardens to benefit the community.
She'd hoped to secure thousands of dollars in grants, but when it became clear that wasn't going to happen, she started planning the garden with just $450 in donations.
"This is the first year, and it's all experimental and done on a shoestring budget," she said. The garden is the only USDA-certified People's Garden in Allegheny County.
So far, the 240-square-foot garden has produced about 250 pounds of vegetables, fruits and herbs for two local food pantries -- the Cross Roads Presbyterian Church and the Pitcairn Food Bank.
Early in the year, Sustainable Monroeville, a group that promotes sustainable gardening, helped design a "permaculture" garden -- the plants have a symbiotic relationship to help each other grow.
Then, Ms. Drumheller had the soil tested in March by scientists at the Penn State Cooperative Extension. The test results weren't promising.
"We didn't have very nutritious soil," she said.
So she spent $225 of her budget on a "soil amendment" done by Steel City Soil. After public works employees dug two rows for the garden with a depression in the middle for a bioswale to catch water runoff, topsoil donated and delivered by a local landscaping company was laid down, followed by a nutritious compost mixture from Steel City Soil. On May 31, seeds and seedlings were planted, all of which were either donated or sold at a deep discount by two local garden centers -- June Rose Garden Center in Plum and Mosside Greenhouse in Wall.
Amid the zucchini, tomatoes and cantaloupe, the garden is dotted with marigolds and Irish Spring bar soap because a public works employee told Ms. Drumheller that the smells are offensive to deer.
"Municipal employees are an encyclopedia of knowledge," Ms. Drumheller said.
She also put fences around the tomatoes to further deter four-legged thieves.
She has seen rabbits, deer, turkeys and groundhogs nearby, but they're not really bothering the garden. Only one plant has been gnawed on -- a Jerusalem artichoke
"I don't really see a lot of animals getting into this," she said.
The staff at Monroeville Public Library helps Ms. Drumheller harvest produce from the garden during work breaks.
"It's been exciting to watch it grow and harvest the fruits of Lois' labor," said Christy Fusco, library director.
The small bioswale in the garden catches water on the sloping hill toward the library, preventing some of it from getting into the building.
Ms. Fusco said she hopes to include more environmentally friendly permaculture landscaping on the library grounds to mitigate flooding.
"We're just keeping our eyes open and sort of including that in our plans ... as we address facility issues," she said.
Ms. Drumheller hopes that sustainable gardens expand across the library grounds and onto the nearby Gateway School District campus. School board members took a tour of the garden last week.
Ms. Fusco said the garden is a great start, and she also hopes to "take those ideas and apply them to the whole campus."

Annie Tubbs: or 412-263-1613.

First published on September 15, 2011 at 12:00 am

Read more:

Check out the link to a wonderful editorial about stormwater management by Brenda Smith, Executive Director of the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association, and one of 15 women being honored for making the region more green by the Boys and Girls Club on November 19, 2011, at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture in downtown Pittsburgh:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Exploring the Ingredients for Transition with Rob Hopkins

Check out the MP3 link of Rob Hopkins of "Exploring the Ingredients For Transition." Go to to find the link.

Need some inspiration? Anyone interested in starting a Transition group, let me know, and i will mentor. Contact me through the Sustainable Monroeville facebook page or by commenting on this blog entry. I was one of the founders of the Transition Pittsburgh group and will be excited to see more Transition groups pop up in this region and everywhere! Elisa Beck

Credit: Maria Vons-Gupta

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Join our Gift Circle!

For our meeting on Monday evening, September 12, 2011 we will have a pot luck dinner starting at 6:00 PM and Gift Circle beginning at 7:00 PM! Consider bringing some locally harvested and/or produced fare for everyone to share! Also your plate, cup and utensils. This will be a zero waste event and you can be sure we'll compost any food we do not eat! We'll be sure to peak at the garden too!

Chad Mosseso, the facilitator says: "Come join us build friendships, community resilience, and economic self-sufficiency at the Gift Circle. As we share our needs and gifts with each other we are able to discover and utilize untapped resources within our community, effectively turning one person's unused asset into another person's treasure.  This creates more abundance for everyone in the community to enjoy while also cutting waste and unnecessary consumption."

See you at the Monroeville Public Library in the downstairs program room at 6:00 PM on Monday evening, September 12, 2011! Elisa Beck