All tours will take place on Wednesday, July 31. Departure and return times are subject to change. The tours will give exposure to interesting and informative conservation work happening in the area. Be sure to register early to secure a seat. SWCS reserves the right to cancel a tour that does not have the minimum number of attendees and to change the maximum number of attendees. A PDF of the educational training tour descriptions is available.
Tour #1: Agriculture in an Ever-Changing World
7:45 AM – 5:15 PM
This tour will focus on how producers of agriculture in western Pennsylvania have adapted their farming practices in response to the changing dynamics of the population. The first stop is at a multigenerational dairy, Grassycrest Farms. This large, conventional dairy is continuously adopting new conservation practices to protect soil and water quality and is most recently preparing to install a methane digester to supply electricity to the local community. The second stop features Kingview Meads, producers who appreciate the hard work of honey bees in producing their mead wine. A tour of the idyllic property will reveal how they are working with local beekeeping associations and educating the public about the importance of pollinators. Following the picnic lunch that will be provided by Freedom Farms (Farm Kings), the tour will proceed through the nearby Amish village of Volant and surrounding farms. The Amish have been located in this area for over a hundred years and continue to maintain their distinct lifestyle. The final stop features Ronald Gargasz’s Organic Beef Farm, which supplies grass-fed beef directly to Pittsburgh through restaurants and CSAs, in addition to local freezer beef sales. Gargasz has raised organic products since the early 1980s and has participated in university-sponsored research studies that have explored why grass-fed meats are healthier that grain-finished beef. All these farms are within an hour’s drive of Pittsburgh and showcase the different types of agriculture in western Pennsylvania. Agricultural practices and products must continue to adapt to remain relevant and essential in this ever-changing world.
Tickets: $70 early/$100 late (after July 4)
A PDF of the Agriculture in an Ever-Changing World Tour draft agenda is available.
Tour #2: Growing Urban Agriculture in Postindustrial Communities
1:00 PM – 5:35 PM
Urban agriculture is a growing trend in many cities across the country, but its origins trace back to the victory gardens of World War II and the home plots of immigrants hoping to maintain a culture and feed their families. In the Pittsburgh region, where earlier economic downturn left thousands of vacant and abandoned plots of land, many individuals and organizations are reclaiming this legacy and driving it forward as they seek to create small businesses, feed their communities with fresh produce, and educate local residents and new farmers. This tour will start at Grow Pittsburgh’s Braddock Farms, a one-acre nonprofit operation in the shadow of an active steel mill. The farm serves a dual purpose: growing produce for local residents of the community and educating youth through apprenticeship programs and workshops. The tour will then travel to the Homewood Historical Urban Farm, where the Black Urban Gardeners and Farmers Co-Op is reclaiming the legacy of black urban agriculture, fighting food apartheid by growing fresh vegetables within the community, and advocating for social change and equitable land policies. Last, the group will visit the new Hilltop Urban Farm, which is the largest urban farm in the United States. Established on the former site of the St. Clair Public Housing Project, the urban farm is in the pilot year of its Farmer Incubation Program after a season of soil remediation and cover cropping. The farm provides land and training to urban farmers as they seek to grow their businesses and professionalize their operations. Additionally, there is a school garden for nearby students and a newly planted orchard.
Tickets: $50 early/$80 late (after July 4)
A PDF of the Growing Urban Agriculture in Postindustrial Communities draft agenda is available.
Tour #3: Restoration of Impacted Landscapes
1:00 PM – 5:35 PM
Humans have made their mark on the soil and water of southwest Pennsylvania, from the extraction industries of coal and natural gas, to the numerous steel mills of Pittsburgh’s industrial heyday, to more recent redevelopment and ex-urban growth. This tour will focus on three projects that have sought to mitigate, remediate, and restore impacted landscapes in creative ways. First, the tour will visit Sygan Road in North Fayette Township, where a municipal project funded by the Allegheny County Conservation District and Pennsylvania’s Dirt, Gravel, and Low-Volume Roads Program returned water to a wetland that was desiccated after development upslope shifted drainage patterns. The project creatively captured and redirected spring and stormwater flows through a series of pipes and also replaced an undersized culvert in an adjacent stream to prevent restrictive and concentrated flow and reduce erosion. Next, the group will tour the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, where years of native habitat plantings and the creation of a passive treatment system for mine drainage have countered the soil and water impacts of historic coal mining. The nonprofit that manages the site has created a vibrant and ever-growing system with research and educational programs that receives over 300,000 visitors a year. At the final tour stop, attendees will walk along park trails in Pittsburgh’s Frick Park and 9-Mile Run. The small (6.5 acre) 9-Mile Run watershed flows into Pittsburgh’s Frick Park and continues through a former dump site where 20 million tons of slag, an end-stage waste product from steel production, was dumped between 1922 and 1972. This watershed is home to the largest urban stream restoration project in the country and numerous ongoing restoration efforts by local nonprofits, the City of Pittsburgh, and the 9-Mile Run Watershed Association.
Tickets: $50 early/$80 late (after July 4)
A PDF of the Restoration of Impacted Landscapes draft agenda is available.