Saturday, December 15, 2018

Frack Free Farm List

As a supplement to my Local Food Resources list, I am pleased to include a compendium of information on the involvement (or lack thereof) of local farms in unconventional gas development (i.e. fracking and ancillary activities).  This information was kindly provided by Stephanie Ulmer, who has taken pains to contact every local farm, and continues to update the list as new information comes in.  Below is the eighth edition of the lists, with explanatory information from Stephanie.

The Frack Free Farm List is meant as a consumer guide and not as a recommendation in any way.  The intent of the list is to support the farmer who goes the extra mile (or is just lucky enough not to be surrounded by well pads) to keep their land frack free.  


Allegheny City Farm
Blackberry Meadows Farm
Bountiful Earth Farm
Cal-Organics (N)
Champion Chicks
Cherish Creamery
Churchview Farm
Clarion River Organics--"We are a cooperative of 15 farms. None of the farms has a fracking operation on it. No farmer has signed a lease agreement with a fracking operation. Some of the farmers who moved here more recently bought farms that had been leased because there is no land for sale that does not have the mineral rights leased. These farmers will not profit from any fracking that may occur and they will try to prevent it from being done on their land despite pre-existing agreements."
Earthbound Organics (N)
Five Elements Farm
Foxy Organics (N)
Friendship Farms
Goat Rodeo
Goodness Grows -BEDFORD (not Butler)
Gulla Farm
Grapery (N)
Hazelwood Urban Farm
HGOfarms (Homegrown Organic Farms) (N)
Josie Organics (N) 
Jubilee Hilltop
Kalona Supernatural (N)
Kistaco Farm--"Kistaco Farms leased their land over 100 years ago. Therefore the current owners have no control over their mineral rights.  There are several conventional wells on the farm  and Kistaco doesn't plan to have any Marcellus wells."
Koch Turkey
Kretschmann Farm
Lady Moon Organic Farms
Lancaster Farm Fresh Coop
Meadow Creek Dairy
Natural by Nature Dairy
Nature's Way
Oyler's Organic Farms
Paul's Orchard
Providence Acres Farm
Organically Grown Co./Ladybug/Andersen Organics (N)--"To the best of our knowledge the geology of this area is not conducive to fracking. A quick review of fracking maps supports this perspective."
Smith's Organic Farm
Snowville Creamery
Spring Street Farm and Apiary
Starry Sky Farm
Stemilt Artisan Organics (N)
Sunview Grapes (N)
Tait Farm Foods
The Family Cow
The Farm at Doe Run
Tuscarora Farms
Trickling Springs Creamery
Triple B Farms--"The mineral rights were leased in 1912 by previous landowners. This farm has not profited in any way from that sale. Triple B Farms does not and would not voluntarily host any fracking operations on their farm." 
Vital Farms (N)--"After checking with our farms, we are able to say that none of our farms currently participate in any sort of fracking, nor have we leased any of our land for further fracking, and to the best of our knowledge, there is no fracking going on underneath any of our lands." 
Who Cooks For You--"My father's property where we started the farm has 5 shallow wells on it, and no Marcellus.  Those wells were put in the 60's and 90's.  There are two wells on our new property that are also shallow wells from the 60's.  We have no wish to have any future wells on the property."  WCFY goes on to say that since the leases were signed and the wells were drilled before they took possession of the property, WCFY has "no say".  They "intend to keep [fracking] out" to the best of their ability.


Always Summer Herbs--"We are not developed or fracked. BUT, if they offer the money I would [....] take it.  I do not want to be on your [Frack Free Farm]list".
Anthony's Vineyards (N) (NR)--"headquarters" is 3 miles from closest well
Bell & Evans--After checking with their contracted farmers, Bell & Evans replied that none of them had fracking on their property.  However, Bell & Evans did not reply to repeated inquiry as to whether any of their farms had leased their land for fracking--"headquarters" is 50 miles from the closest well.
Bluebird Meadows Farm--about 25 miles from closest well.
Brenckle's Greenhouse--Butler--about 1 mile from closest well.
Brenckle's Organic Farm and Greenhouse--Zelienople--about 0.50 mile from the closest well.
Brunton Dairy (NR)--1.25 miles from closest well.
Calkins Creamery (NR)--about 11 miles from closest well.
Country Acres (NR)--30 miles miles from closest well. 
Draper's Super Bee Apiaries--"There is a well not far from us and they did run just under the corner of the property [which they had leased]."
Freedom Farms (NR)--0.75 miles from closest well.
Giving Nature--Giving Nature firmly believes that if it's is good for the planet, it's good for you.  While none of their farm partners have any sort of fracking operation on their property, some may have leased their land for drilling.  This is not information that Giving Nature collects.
God's Country Creamery--"We do not have fracking going on in our area or on our farm. Our farm has been leased for gas exploration, but none is planned at this time."
Goodness Grows-BUTLER (NR)--0.5 miles from the closest well.  This farm also distributes the products of other small farmers. 
Jamison Farm (NR)--0.25 mile from a "proposed but never materialized well", 1 mile from a compressor station.
Lakewood Organics (N) (NR)
Liberty Farms--12 miles from the closest well.
Maple Valley Honey (NR)--10 miles from the closest well.
McELHINNY Farm--While they have a fracking well on their property it is "not on the farm where they grow their corn."  The well is "approximately a mile away" from the corn growing portion of their farm.
Meadowcreek Dairy (NR)--The fractracker map for Virginia is incomplete.  On the incomplete map Meadowcreek Dairy is about 50 mi. from the closest well.
Minerva Dairy--"This is not information that we have on file pertaining to our family farms."  About 5 miles from closest well.
Mock's Greenhouse (NR)--Its PA greenhouse is about 5 miles from the closest well.  Its WVA greenhouse is about 35 miles away from the closest well.
Nature's Yoke (NR)--100 miles from the closest well.  They source from a variety of farms.  I didn't research the location of these farms.
Niman Ranch (N) (NR)
Organic Valley (N):  "It is the position of our cooperative that hydraulic fracturing petroleum extraction techniques pose an unacceptable risk to the environment and should not be allowed to continue.  That said, each farm within our cooperative is an independent business and make the decisions for the land. I have worked here several years and have never heard of fracking on any Organic Valley farm. However, this not information that we specifically collect from our farms."
Rice Fruit Company-- "Rice Fruit Company is a facility which packs and markets fruit for 30-40 local farm families.  While Rice Fruit Company itself does not host any kind of fracking operation, we do not ask our growers for this type of information.  Therefore, we would not be able to speak on their behalf."
Salemville--"Unfortunately at this time there is no information we can provide you with regarding your inquiry."
Sand Hill Berries Farm--"I believe in fracking.  My son's in the business".  About 0.5 mile from closest well.
Serenity Hill Farm (NR)--a little less than 0.5 mile from the closest well.
Shaffer Venison Farm (NR)--36 miles from closest well.
Swiss Villa Eggs (NR)--the address of the "marketing representative" is 30 miles from the closest well.
Toigo Organic Farm (NR)--50 miles from the closest well.
Turner Dairy--They source from 5 small farms all of which they have had very long term relationships with.  You can see this on their website.  Turner Dairy wrote back to say one of those 5 farms hosts a well pad. 
Wexford Farms (NR)--about 5 miles from closest well.
Whole Foods (N)--They sent a long reply saying how committed they were to environmentally friendly practices but then ended with this comment:  "we do not include in our review any operational or management decisions of the company outside of the direct production of the product in question, including the way that growers and producers choose to use their land."


I write an email or, if need be call, asking if a farm hosts any sort of fracking operation or if they have leased their land for fracking.  If they don't get back to me in a couple of business days I try again.  If they don't get back to me within 2 weeks they go on the list of farms that are not frack free.  Of course, this list is ongoing so a farm has a chance to correct the record.

For the purposes of this list, any farm located in PA, Ohio, or WVA is called a local farm even though some may be quite far away.  I haven't contacted any farms in NY, MD or VT because of their state's ban on fracking.  All the farms on this list are local unless they have an N (for national) after there name.  

In addition, I ask CA farms if they use fracking waste to irrigate their farms.  I ask midwest farmers if they lease their lands for frack sand mining.  

I would love for this list to be crowd sourced so if you have farms to add just send them to me.  To keep it from becoming overly long however, I ask that the farms' products be available in the Pittsburgh region. I'll try to keep the list up to date and send it out periodically.  

About The Fracking, Don't Ask Don't Tell, and Non Responsive Farm List:

Farms whose names appear in all caps are farms that are known to host well pads or have leased their land for the purposes of fracking.

Some farms serve as distributors for the products of others, like Organic Valley or Whole Foods.  Some smaller farms do the same.  If they reply by saying they don't screen their farms for fracking, I include their statements after their names.

Some farms just don't reply.  I'm sure there is a multitude of reasons why they don't.  But if I can't tell whether there is fracking on or under their farm or the farms that they put their label on, they all go on this list.  An NR after a farm's name indicates that I got no response.

I have checked out the Non Responsive Farms on Fractracker (Thank you Kyle for showing me how to use this wonderful resource) and put the approximate distance of their farm's home address from the closest well.  I have, of course, no way of knowing if the well sits on their property, whether drilling extends under their property (drilling laterals can run for up to two miles) or whether they have leased their land for fracking in the future.  If they source from multiple farms I often have no way of knowing the locations of their partner farms.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Job: GASP Communications Manager

All the information's on Nonprofit Talent:

Job: Tree Pittsburgh winter pruning crew

Tree Pittsburgh is seeking members for its Winter Pruning Crew. The Winter PruningCrew offers part-time positions averaging 24 hours per week. Regular work days are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. January 7, 2019 — March 29, 2019. Rate of pay is $12.50 per hour.
Winter Pruning Crew members will…
  • carry out tree pruning to advance the structural pruning cycle of newly planted street and park trees throughout the City of Pittsburgh
  • Work in close proximity to traffic, pedestrians, homeowners, and other members of the public — attention to safety and a friendly, approachable demeanor are essential to success in the position
  • Spend full days outdoors in winter weather conditions while conducting physically demanding work activities
Learn more about the position in the Winter Pruning Crew job description. To apply, email a cover letter and resumé to Please include Winter Pruning Crew in the subject line. Deadline to apply is December 7, 2019.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

How to take soil samples

The 75th Sustainability Salon will feature XRF soil testing, as I described in a previous post.  It seems like a good time to review good practices for taking soil samples. Jon Burgess, who is leading the urban soils project, provided this diagram and the written instructions below.

How to Take a Soil Test
Tools Needed: gloves, shovel, bucket, plastic sandwich or freezer bag
*Wear gloves when taking a soil sample to protect against potential contamination.
Step 1: Identify one area of interest at a time (yard, garden bed, playground, etc.). This area should not exceed 100 square feet (10’ by 10’). If it is larger, split it into separate areas.
Step 2: Use shovel to collect 3-5 small scoops from different spots in that area. If the soil is wet, lay it on a piece of paper in the sun to dry out
Step 3: Mix those 3-5 scoops together in a bucket.
Step 4: Remove any large debris like large rocks, leaves, grasses, or trash.
Step 5: Transfer 1 cup of the mixed soil into a clear plastic bag that is labeled so you know where it came from.
Step 6: Repeat steps 2-5 with other areas of interest for soil sampling like a different garden bed or area of the yard.
Step 7: Bring sample(s) to the Allegheny County Conservation District’s free soil screening events. Our event schedule can be found at or by calling (412) 291-8017.

 Grow Pittsburgh has a very detailed tutorial, including where to send samples for a conventional test and some other informational links,  on their web site here.  

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Local food resources

You can find information on Putting Down Roots Sustainability Salons (now in their sixth year!) and myriad other events on the main MarensList events blog.  The second Sustainability Salon (as well as the fourteenthfifteenthtwenty-sixthtwenty-seventh, thirty-eighththirty-ninthfifty-firstfifty-secondsixty-secondsixty-thirdsixty-fourth, seventy-fourth, and seventy-fifth) focused on food -- growing it, and sourcing it locally, food access, education, health, humane practices, and other food issues.  Afterwards, Maren put together a list of many local sources:  CSA farms, farmers' markets, grassfed and humanely raised meats and dairy, natural foods suppliers, bakeries, and advocacy organizations.

East End Food Co-op has a great selection of local organic produce, along with a fairly comprehensive selection of natural and organic groceries.  There's also a vegetarian deli with prepared foods.

Marty's Market is a locally-owned supermarket-scale natural foods market, cafe, and coffee bar in the Strip District.  (update:  sadly, Marty's closed last year!)

Schwartz Living Market on the South Side is an indoor marketplace, eatery, and venue for classes, workshops, music, and films -- all in an old supermarket building undergoing seriously green renovation.

Whole Foods (not locally owned) has a store in Eastside, which is what they're calling East Liberty next to Shadyside.  Or something.  Amazon now owns the Whole Foods chain, which apparently means the prices will go down some, but I don't know what if anything will happen to their standards for humane livestock practices and such-like.  Still, there are some things that they carry that other local purveyors don't.  And they do work with some local farms.

Frankferd Farms:  Originally a farm and grain mill, now a solar-powered grain mill *and* a regional organic and natural food wholesale distributor.  You may have purchased their wares at the East End Food Coop, or eaten their ingredients in products from Allegro Hearth Bakery in Squirrel Hill.  Individuals can visit their storefront in Saxonburg, and order for delivery.  In Pittsburgh proper, the delivery minimum is $250, but folks can group orders with or without a formal buying club, with individual minimum of only $35.  They also put out monthly sales flyers, both by paper mail and online.  I have a few extra catalogues, so just ask when you're here for a Sustainability Salon (or look for a stack on the literature table).

Wild Purveyors, a shop in Lawrenceville, has all kinds of locally-grown, -foraged, and -crafted foods from farm, field, and forest.  House-made delicacies, artisan cheeses, pastured meats, local produce, and all manner of wild foods in season.

Garden Dreams Urban Farm & Nursery is a small, community-oriented business committed to increasing access to healthy, fresh food by providing strong vegetable, herb and flower starts to home gardeners, community gardens, nonprofits, schools and retail markets.  This little oasis sits on two reclaimed vacant lots in Wilkinsburg, near Pittsburgh’s East End.  They specialize in heirloom varieties of tomato, pepper, and eggplant seedlings and also grow produce that is provided weekly to their "Mini-CSA" members.  They carry hard to find vegetable varieties as well as seed garlic, asparagus crowns, raspberry canes, cover crop seed, seed potato, and organic gardening products such as potting soil and fertilizers.  

Kretschmann's CSA farm (Don and Becky have been here for more than one Food salon; this photo shows them accepting an award at the annual PASA conference) has one of the (if not the) largest CSAs in the region, with year-round in-town deliveries of herbs, veggies, and fruits, as well as cheeses, meats, locally-roasted coffee, and other produce from other local growers and purveyors.  They've been growing organically near Zelienople since 1971.

Blackberry Meadows Farm not only has a CSA program but also a grow-your-own version where they provide seedlings and supplies for backyard gardeners.  Greg Boulos spoke at at the 38th Sustainability Salon.

The Guild of St. Fiacre New on the scene, in Carnegie:  for just $22.50/week you can have a share of their fresh, organically grown produce. If you live in Carnegie or the surrounding area Pamela will offer free delivery.  Bi-weekly shares and payment options can be arranged. 

Penn's Corner Farm Alliance, a group of local farms with a collective CSA, also à la carte preorder "farm stands".  You can even order online here.

Clarion River Organics, another multi-farm cooperative, is signing up members for 2015.  I just got word that they take food stamps, as well.

Who Cooks For You Farm can be found at farmers' markets including East Liberty (Mondays) and Squirrel Hill (Sundays), on the menu at Legume Bistro, and at your house via their CSA program.

Our friends at Farm to Table Pittsburgh have a searchable listing of CSA farms, more than I've shown here: .
Farmers' markets abound;  three that I frequent are at Phipps Conservatory (Wednesday afternoons), in East Liberty (Monday afternoons) and in Squirrel Hill (Sunday mornings):  Farmers at the Firehouse, run by Slow Food Pittsburgh and often featuring cooking demonstrations and tastings.  
Not all the farmers' markets are run by Citiparks, but the ones that are will be listed on 
The Pittsburgh Public Market in the Strip is host to many great local and regional producers on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays year 'round as well as occasional events and soon a community kitchen. Vegan and vegetarian delights, artisanal cheeses, pastured eggs and dairy, fine woodworking, garden plants and accessories, fresh pasta, wines... (update: O dear, another Strip natural food emporium has closed its doors!)

Another enterprise put together by the Slow Food folks is the Laptop Butcher Shop, through which individuals can place orders with local farmers for local pastured, humanely-raised meats, which are delivered via the Farmers at the Firehouse market every so often.  A typical lineup includes goat cheese from Lake Erie Creamery, Wil-Den's Fresh Air Pork, lamb and rabbits from Pucker Brush Farm, meat and eggs from the Farmer's Wife, and wild salmon straight from Alaska.

Gina Anderson of Starry Sky Farm raises pastured lamb and chickens in Butler County.  She's currently taking orders for half or whole lambs for the fall;  you can get on the Starry Sky mailing list:  email or call 412-450-8242 / cell 503-956-4736.  

North Woods Ranch (Oliver has been to Salons, and spoke at one some years ago) is up in Marshall Township, with grassfed beef, pastured pork, honey, and maple syrup. You can find North Woods meats at the Co-op, at the ranch, and now, delivered to our house for local pickup! If you're going to eat meat, this is the way the animals should be raised. Oliver and Jodi also post adorable photographs of critters in the woods on Facebook and via their email list. Update: Oliver and Jodi have decided to leave ranching, and sold their animals to other local humane farmers, like Pittsburgher Highland Farm.

Cherry Hill Ecological Farm -- Will McGee and Gretchen Oat also raise grassfed beef and pastured pork at their farm in Albion, PA up near Erie, and deliver regular shares, sampler boxes, and à la carte orders to Pittsburgh (also with a monthly visit to our front porch).

Joe Rush of Rushacres Farm, who delivers to several locations around the 'Burgh every two weeks, with grassfed meats (beef, lamb, pork, chicken, duck, and turkey), raw dairy, eggs, and goodies like honey, jams, apple butter, maple syrup, and apple cider:

Weatherbury Farm, located 45 minutes southwest of Pittsburgh in Avella, PA, sells grass-fed beef and lamb and hosts visitors on the farm as well.  Their newest venture, taking off later this summer, is producing estate flours (think wine – from seed to processing everything occurs on the farm).  That will be followed by the production of pasta made from their grains (hard wheat, emmer and spelt).  They also hope to open an on-farm store to sell their and neighboring farms' products. 

The Burns family's Heritage Farm, a couple of hours east, also delivers to our area, including a stop at the East End Food Co-op (and you can find their products at the co-op through the week).  Fruits and forest-foraging pork, pastured poultry, grass-fed beef, vegetables, and eggs.

Further east but still in Pennsylvania is The Family Cow, which delivers raw dairy, grassfed meats (and nitrate-free cured meats), herbs, produce, and home-canned goods, to Swissvale, Ross Township, and Green Tree.
Also, right across the road from Don & Becky Kretschmann is the Lewis family's farm, with grassfed beef and pastured chickens for farm pickup.
Many of these farmers have periodic email newsletters that will keep you posted on what's available as the seasons roll around the year (or in the case of this winter, are skipped entirely).

Pick-Your-Own farms -- Here's a directory of all the U-Pick farms in Western Pennsylvania. Everything from apples, peaches, and pears to blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, and grapes -- and pumpkins in the fall.

You can buy dairy, eggs, and meats from many of these producers at the East End Food Co-op as well as breads from Allegro Hearth and MediterraSpring Creek organic tofu from nearby West Virginia, raw milk from Frank White, eggs from The Farmer's Wife, off-grid NuWay Farms, and Blackberry Meadows Farm, beef from Ron Gargasz, lamb and goat from Clarion River Farms, flours from the Frankferd mill, and cheeses from many local dairies.  Many of them, and lots of others, will be at the Farm To Table conference this Friday and Saturday!

Grow Pittsburgh works in many realms (community gardens, urban farms, school gardens, gardening classes, and more) to help more people grow more food in our city.  Check them out at

Slow Food Pittsburgh sponsors talks, demos, and classes at various venues around town.

The Pittsburgh Canning Exchange helps connect canners and create new canners by coordinating events and sharing resources for learning, planning, and trading.

Hazelwood Food Forest has transformed a space on Second Avenue into a lush, productive permaculture garden.  Join other volunteers on Tuesday evenings, and see what it's all about -- see the web site for more information!

The Farmer's Table presents elegant dinners at local farms several times a year, using meats and produce that are local (or even produced on-site) and naturally grown.

PASA, the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, hosts farm field days and networking gatherings through the year and, each February, a fantastic educational conference in State College.  Their Buy Fresh, Buy Local program is another way to connect with local producers.

The Pittsburgh Food Policy Council is a consortium of individuals and community organizations working to make the local food system more equitable and sustainable.

In less than a decade, Food & Water Watch has become one of the leading food-system activist organizations around the country, with victories from Starbucks (eschewing rBGH in the dairy they use) all the way to the EPA (regulating per chlorates).  Their latest campaign focuses on the abuse of antibiotics on factory farms, the biggest contributor to the loss of effectiveness of many such drugs to treat human diseases.

GMO Free PA is working on the state and local level to educate consumers and policymakers about genetically-modified foods, and advocate for mandatory GMO labeling.

There are quite a few local food blogs you can browse or follow to find even more regional food resources, amazing recipes, and new insights.  Among my favorites are
This is just a broad sampling off the top of my head of the many fantastic local food resources in our agriculturally rich region;  I hope it's useful!  I'd love it if you let me know about connections you make as a result.  Many of these outfits can also be found on Facebook.

We talk some about gardening during each of our Food salons;  I'd also be open to hosting more detailed workshops, if there's interest.

Be well, eat local, share food, and grow your own if you can!

-- Maren.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Local businesses worth supporting: Garden Dreams

I grow a great many plants, and make them available to area gardeners through occasional plant sales.  My operation is very small, though, with a broad but rather eclectic assortment of vegetables, herbs, and perennials, including forty varieties of tomatoes, lots of cucumbers, lush ferns, and many other plants that can find homes in your garden.  However, if I don't have what you want, I encourage you to visit a fantastic urban farm not far away, in Wilkinsburg.  Garden Dreams, run by my friends Mindy Schwartz, Hannah Reiff, and Bob Madden is a go-to source for a much larger selection of vegetable and herb plants each spring.  You can also find their plants at the East End Food Co-op.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Local businesses worth supporting: Sylvania Natives

Autumn is a great time to plant perennials. A former neighbor of mine, Kathy McGregor, has a native plant business right here in Squirrel Hill called Sylvania Natives. She has wildcrafted everything -- meaning that she has gone out and collected seeds of native plants, which she then propagates. Kathy got her start with natives by working as a volunteer for Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve (an Audubon facility in the North Hills). Sylvania Natives -- now in its 14th year and offering more than 120 species of locally native perennials, shrubs and trees -- is on Ira Way, a little alley off of Shady near Monitor; Google Maps knows about it, too.