Regardless of the name, the mission of the event has always been the same: to reflect on and celebrate the growing and sharing of fresh local food in the Pittsburgh community. Now, after two years of either canceling or limiting the event due to the pandemic, Garden Get Down returns in its full glory on Wed., Sept. 28 at the Sherwood Event Center in Wilkinsburg.
In an email to Pittsburgh City Paper, Ryan Walsh, director of development and communications for Grow Pittsburgh, says the organization was excited, albeit nervous, to return to an in-person event last fall, adding that they hoped to "acknowledge the vital role growing and sharing local food played in getting us through the challenges of the past couple years."
When planning the 2022 Garden Get Down, Walsh says organizers decided to make a conscious effort to expand its reach to everyone in the community who benefitted from or contributed to urban gardens and farms.
"So when we planned a return of the Garden Get Down last fall, we really wanted it to feel like a family reunion for gardeners and growers across our whole community spectrum: teachers and parents of kids who enjoy their school gardens, community gardeners and members of our tool-lending library, urban farmers and former farm apprentices in our job training program, our partners in this work, and our large family of supporters," says Walsh.
As a result, he says the upcoming event turned into a sort-of block party.
The first Garden Get Down took place in 2018 at Threadbare Cider. In 2019, Grow Pittsburgh marked 10 years of its Community Gardens program at Grist House in Millvale with "tours of the amazing Millvale community garden next door." Walsh says they "more than doubled" the attendance that year because there are so many community gardens in Allegheny County — more than 125, by his count.
"Everyone loves to come together around food, but especially folks who grow it," he says.
Walsh says part of the reason they choose to host the event in Wilkinsburg stems from the organization's expansion into the borough with a new urban farm and nursery, Garden Dreams.
"We opened our beautiful new greenhouses there in May and grew over 28,000 seedlings this spring and summer," says Walsh. "We have more plans to redevelop the property into an urban agricultural hub, with a teaching kitchen, community event space, and educational spaces."
Walsh says the fundraiser will support Garden Dreams and three of Grow Pittsburgh's core programs: school gardens, community gardens, and food access and job training through its urban farm sites.
"Our strategic plan for the next several years focuses on building capacity for urban agriculture," says Walsh. "We do a lot of that through education and training. And we want to strengthen existing program models through community engagement. So we welcome community members to attend and get involved."
Garden Get Down. 6-9 p.m. Wed., Sept. 28. Sherwood Event Center, 400 Sherwood Road, Wilkinsburg. $25-85. growpittsburgh.org/events/garden-get-down