Pittsburgh Farm to Table Conference

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pittsburgh's Farm to Table Conference

J and I decided to take advantage of a livingsocial offer, and attend the Pittsburgh Farm to Table Conference at half price this past weekend. It may not look like much from the above photo, but it was a great opportunity to stuff our faces with samples of locally-produced, naturally-grown food and wine. I'd say it was worth it just to watch J's disgust at the raw milk booths.

We ended up walking away with a considerable haul of wine, honey, pretzel snacks, whole grain mustard, and lots of tasty jams (carrot cake jam, anyone?). We also learned about our local CSAs and that the nearest place to acquire Turner Dairy products is the local RiteAid pharmacy. Which is just weird.

"New Gardens"
By attending a talk from local Master Gardener, John Boynton, we learned about "New Gardens", based on his personal research, an approach to gardening that does not require years and years of working compost into clay. The idea was essentially to combine a generous sizing interpretation of Square Foot Gardenining with having 6-12 inches deep of this mixture:
  • 1/3 compost
  • 1/3 coarse vermiculite
  • 1/3 Organic Mechanic's Potting Mixture (a more sustainable peat moss substitute)
The compost component would consist of an assortment of "organic amendments" (for a 4'X8' bed):
  • a handful of dried blood or bloodmeal (nitrogen source)
  • a handful of Green Sand (potassium source)
  • a handful of rock phosphate (phosphorous source)
  • a handful of rich earth or azomite
  • a half handful of dolomite line (for the pH)
Much of this should be available at the local gardening shop or from Fertrell or Espoma. Supposedly, you just construct a wood (cedar recommended) raised bed frame that you place on top of dirt or your old basketball court or even elevated on legs (with holes for drainage), and then just add the above mixture, 6-12" deep, and every time you replant, you simply work another round of the organic amendments into the mixture that is in the frame, to replace the nutrients that the plants consumed.

And there's the usual recommendation of rotating your brassicas (cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli), Italian bed (nightshades, eggplants, tomatoes, peppers), and salads (lettuce, parsley). Covering with Agribon helps keep the cold/bugs/etc. out, allowing the speaker to have 11 months of lettuce-growing in Pittsburgh.

This technique is also supposed to work well for container gardening, which might be exceptionally handy, considering I'm stuck in apartment-building dwellings for the foreseeable future.

Pittsburgh's Farm to Table Conference
Pittsburgh's Farm to Table Conference
"New Gardens" Talk
Farm to Table Conference Haul


rooth said...

What a cool experience - sounds like you guys had fun and learned a lot too

Anonymous said...

Very cool! I keep trying to help my husband's family buy more locally produced products, but they're just "not in that circle." It's hard to find good sources for them. The farmer's market in Monroeville is just sad...

olivia said...

This looks amazing! It makes me wonder if there is anything similar in my own city...very inspiring.

Elle Sees said...

One of my friends was supposed to go to that...I'll have to seek her thoughts

h said...

Allison- have you tried the East End Food Co-op?

I also like the Phipps Farmers Market, but that's in the city (East Pittsburgh) and on Wednesdays. Convenient for me, but not so much for anyone not in the area.

SARAH said...

Events like these are so fun! One time, we went to a fruit tasting and just had no idea what to expect, but that's probably what made it memorable.

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