Staff Spotlight: Farm Interns Appreciate Practices Used at Chatham University’s Eden Hall Campus
By Erin Simard
Tucked away within Chatham University’s Eden Hall campus in Gibsonia is the Food Bank Farm at Chatham, Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank’s one-acre farm. The Farm provides greater access to PA-grown produce to sell at our Green Grocer program, gives Chatham students more productive growing space to learn and gives the people we serve in food desert communities greater access to the quality, fresh foods they want and need.
In addition to students and volunteers, are Erna Spela and Goldie Seddon who are leading the efforts at The Farm as summer interns with the Food Bank. Erna and Goldie work with other Chatham students and Food Bank volunteers to execute the necessary work to grow and harvest the crops and sell them through the Food Bank’s Green Grocer mobile market.
The program’s significance is evident – it brings fresh food to communities that often lack traditional grocery stores and instead feature corner markets not designed to handle a lot of fresh, healthy foods. However, it is for another reason that the interns hold the Eden Hall farm in such high regard.
Erna believes the most significant impact The Farm has on our region is setting an example for others. “It sets an example for how things could be done and how food distribution should be: supporting more local growers and getting food straight from the farm to the consumer instead of relying on imports from different states or even different countries.”
The Eden Hall farm is officially certified as an organic farm by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, meaning that within each procedure that they can, the farm staff has adopted methods which are based in natural processes and products.
Erna explains that the practices employed by the farm even go beyond maintaining strictly organic, responsible procedures. “We use regenerative practices [while] farming,” meaning “it’s not only organic, but we try to improve the soil quality, and we try to introduce diversity into our [rotation of] crops and the field.” Thus, the farm is “not giving benefits only to the consumers. It’s also giving benefits to our ecosystem and the climate.”
Furthermore, they “teach the volunteers that come out how things are done [here] and how they could be done without destroying the soil by applying heavy chemicals. I think that’s quite important.”
Moreover, Goldie interjects, the Food Bank offers its “farm workers a living wage. It’s really important to pay farmers a living wage. I think it’s pretty rare, too, [to find an opportunity which] pays farmers adequate money. I think it’s really awesome that the Food Bank is making sure that that happens.”
To see the product of this impressive initiative firsthand, volunteer at The Farm or visit a Green Grocer stop near you!