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June 14, 2007

Farm to Pitt program begins

Registration has begun for the new “Farm to Pitt” program that enables University employees to subscribe to a weekly delivery of fresh fruits and vegetables from local farms.

More than 400 people indicated interest in receiving information on the new community supported agriculture (CSA) program in an initial inquiry made last month, said David Eson of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture. PASA is partnering with the University’s Office of Community Relations to launch the program at Pitt.

Subscribers may choose organic or non-organic 10-week subscriptions in small (feeding 1-2 adults) or family size (feeding 3-4 adults) boxes. Cost is $225 and $445, or $1.88 per pound, for organic produce; $180 and $360, or $1.80 per pound, for non-organic.

A small subscription fills approximately one shopping bag and the family size fills two, Eson said, adding that there may be more to carry later in the season when bulkier crops such as corn come in.

“It’s a good value for the money,” he said.

Payment is due by July 2 or can be split in two, payable July 2 and Aug. 2.

Initially, two farms will supply the Pitt program. They are Dillner Family Farm in Gibsonia, which already participates in the Oakland Farmers Market, and Schmucker Family Farm, an Amish farm in Emlenton, which will provide organic produce.

“The real intent of this is to have consumers directly support the farms they deal with,” said Steve Zupcic, Pitt’s assistant director of Community Relations.

Subscribers will pick up their produce at the “Farm to Pitt” tent at the farmers’ market (on Sennott Street between Atwood Street and Meyran Avenue) between 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Fridays starting July 10. The program is scheduled to run through Sept. 21, but Eson said the program could be extended if interest warrants.

Additionally, he noted that other farm products could be made available if demand warrants, with year-round delivery a possibility if enough subscribers desire. Noting that the program could someday include other farm products such as meats, he said, “It’s all going to be driven by the consumer.”

While this year’s program gives subscribers the benefit of produce at the height of the season, next year’s could offer both 20-week and 10-week subscriptions, Eson said.

Participants will be surveyed to determine continuing interest and examine possible expansion of the products offered.

For now, Eson said, the first step is to get customers acclimated to the way the program operates.

Participants sign a contract and pay in advance. They receive a box containing seasonal farm products — for example, this week’s subscribers would be receiving a box that included collard greens, kale, strawberries, salad greens, bread, eggs and cheese.

The produce is delivered to a pickup spot — in Pitt’s case, the farmers’ market — although Eson said alternate spots can be arranged for 15 or more subscribers.

In case a subscriber is unavailable on pickup day, he or she can arrange for someone else to collect the produce; otherwise, it will be donated to a food bank.

A number of area farms offer CSA subscriptions, Eson said, adding that he knows of no other universities that have partnered in such a plan.

The University program was sparked when Pitt philosophy faculty member Matt Shockey called Eson to volunteer with PASA last year, Eson said. Shockey, who has since left Pitt, had been a farm subscription member. The planning was passed to Community Relations, where Zupcic has been handling on-campus inquiries. For more information, contact him at

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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