Von Singletary of Venture Outdoors | Program Notes
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Friday, April 30, 2010

Von Singletary of Venture Outdoors

Posted By on Fri, Apr 30, 2010 at 1:51 PM

Singletary, a local environmentalist, ecologist and social activist, is on a mission to bring Pittsburgh outside this summer.

Singletary recently joined the staff at Venture Outdoors. The nonprofit group, dedicated to promoting the region's outdoor resources and opportunities, organizes a myriad of activities: sporty adventures (kayaking, hiking, and biking), agricultural programs and other family-friendly outdoor events.

As family and community programs specialist, Singletary will initiate programs like these, to connect Pittsburghers to their environment. Weekly activities "are geared towards collaboration and participation, and [making] connections between each other," Singletary says.

Singletary, a 25-year-old native of Pittsburgh's East End, says her environmental training began with her great-grandmother, who grew up on a farm in South Carolina. "I've taken Rachel Carson's work to heart since the time I read my first excerpt of Silent Spring in third grade," she adds.

Singletary later learned a lot about collaboration -- and more about plants -- through her work at local urban farms and gardens including Landslide Community Farm, a grassroots urban-farming initiative in the Hill District. The farm, started by five community-minded activists in 2007, maintains several gardens with all-volunteer labor. What the farm harvests is used for community meals, available to the public for nothing more than a voluntary donation.

Landslide was in the news last fall, during the G-20 summit of world leaders: Days before the summit, at least 40 police officers spent hours searching the site, eventually ordering the removal of about 100 tires on a nearby city-owned lot. The tires had apparently been there for more than a year; police called the search "a precautionary measure" related to G-20 protests, with which Landslide volunteers said they were not involved.

Singletary, who was a full-time volunteer at the farm, says that the Landslide experience goes beyond community aid. Aside from learning the science behind earth-friendly farming, her experiences increased her awareness of urban ecosystems and Pittsburghers' impact upon them -- a motivation for her work with Venture Outdoors.

"We all share the outdoors and the environment," says Singletary. "Some aren't as responsible as they should be."

But to love the outdoors, you've got to get to know the outdoors. So Venture Outdoors takes care their activities (agricultural or otherwise) are "inclusive and welcoming to everyone," regardless of experience level or mobility, says Singletary. 

According to this environmentalist, getting Pittsburgh outside is as simple, "if you see something that's easy, and it's fun, and it's healthy." Singletary aims to make sure Venture Outdoors is just that.

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