For a little over a decade, the annual fundraiser hosted by Grow Pittsburgh ran under a rotating list of names – A Taste of Grow Pittsburgh, Urban Grange and Harvest Fest. In 2018, the non-profit organization finally decided on the Garden Get Down and has been calling it that ever since.
Regardless of the name, the event’s mission has always been the same: to reflect and celebrate the growing and sharing of fresh local food in the Pittsburgh community. Now, after two years of either canceling or curtailing the event due to the pandemic, Garden Get Down returns in its full glory on Wednesday, September 28 at the Sherwood Event Center in Wilkinsburg.
In an email to Pittsburgh City NewspaperRyan Walsh, director of development and communications at Grow Pittsburgh, says the organization is excited, if nervous, to return to an in-person event last fall, adding that they hoped to “recognize the important role that growing and sharing local foods played to get us through the challenges of the past few years.”
The event invites ticket holders (tickets are only available until Monday, September 26, by the way) to enjoy “great food from three chefs, along with earth-based printmaking, a seed portion and music by DJ Mary Mack.” Three dishes from local chefs — Tierra Patterson of 9 Cafe, Felipe Crespo of Secretos de mis Abuelos and Gerald Charlton of Veggies N’at — will feature produce sourced from Grow Pittsburgh’s own food production facilities, while other menu items will be donated by partners such as Harvie and Buy Fresh, Buy Local.
In planning Garden Get Down 2022, Walsh says organizers decided to make a conscious effort to expand its reach to include everyone in the community who has benefited from or contributed to community gardens and farms.
“When we planned a return of the Garden Get Down last fall, we really wanted it to feel like a family gathering for gardeners and growers from across our spectrum of communities: teachers and parents of children enjoying their school gardens, community gardeners and members of our tool lending library, urban farmers and former agricultural trainees in our vocational training program, our partners in this work and our large family of supporters,” says Walsh.
As a result, he says, the upcoming event became something of a block party.
The first Garden Get Down took place at Threadbare Cider in 2018. In 2019, Grow Pittsburgh celebrated 10 years of its Community Gardens program at the Grist House in Millvale with “Tours of the amazing Millvale Community Garden next door”. Walsh says they’ve “more than doubled” attendance this year because there are so many community gardens in Allegheny County — more than 125, by his count.
“Everyone loves gathering around food, but especially people who grow it,” he says.
Walsh says part of the reason they chose to host the event in Wilkinsburg is because of the organization’s expansion into the county with a new city farm and nursery, Garden Dreams.
“We opened our beautiful new greenhouses there in May and have grown over 28,000 seedlings this spring and summer,” says Walsh. “We have further plans to convert the property into an urban agricultural center, with a teaching kitchen, community meeting room and educational spaces.”
Walsh says the fundraiser will support Garden Dreams and three of Grow Pittsburgh’s core programs: school gardens, community gardens, and access to food and job training through its city farm locations.
“Our strategic plan for the next few years is focused on building capacity for urban farming,” says Walsh. “We do a lot of this through education and training. And we want to strengthen existing program models through community engagement. That’s why we invite members of the community to participate and get involved.”
garden down. Wednesday, September 28, 6pm-9pm. Sherwood Event Center, 400 Sherwood Road, Wilkinsburg. $25-85. growpittsburgh.org/events/garden-get-down