I have been on the board of Plant to Plate, the campus gardening club, since fall 2016; I have been the president since summer 2018. Plant to Plate runs a vegetable garden on Oakland Avenue and a separate berry garden on upper campus near Fitzgerald Field House. We host weekly garden workshifts at the Oakland Avenue garden during the warm season for any and all students and community members, and we donate most of our produce to the Pitt Pantry. We occasionally also collaborate with service fraternities and other clubs, and we have hosted volunteers for Pitt Make A Difference Day before. Some recent and upcoming projects include the first planting in the berry garden, using cover crops for the first time, rebuilding the vegetable garden sign, and putting a mural on our garden shed.
In spring 2015 I attended a talk by Will Allen, then the CEO of Growing Power, an urban farm in Milwaukee. I learned from him that urban gardens have a significant positive impact on their community. They make neighborhoods more pleasant to walk through and live in, which also lowers crime rates in those areas. Increased green space improves air quality and decreases water runoff, both of which are especially serious issues in Pittsburgh because of nearby steel mills and combined sewage overflow. The Oakland Avenue garden was started by a student living across the street who hated having to look at an empty lot full of litter every day. Now, more than ten years later, students walking past compliment the garden regularly, and many stop to sit at the picnic tables to study or have a picnic. South Oakland is infamous for being a grimy neighborhood full of rowdy students, and the garden combats that image.
Since I joined the board of Plant to Plate, I have focused on building a full, collaborative executive board and raising awareness of the garden. Most people at Pitt do not know it exists, as evidenced by falling numbers in attendance to workshifts and an increasingly small board until this year. We now have our own logo and last winter we reworked our mission and vision statements and made concrete goals to work toward our mission. We have regular fundraising events and other club-oriented events to engage members beyond our workshifts, which has not happened since before I joined the club. Our increased number of events and our presence at the Student Activities Fair resulted in much higher numbers of club volunteers at our workshifts this fall, and our workshifts this spring have had high turnouts so far as well. We have worked with students from Pitt’s Sustainable Agriculture and Sustainability classes in the past to move forward on projects like rebuilding the raised beds, planning the implementation of permaculture in the berry garden, and using cover crops in the garden. We are also part of the Student Office of Sustainability and often communicate with other clubs in the office and participate in office events.