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The U.S. city of Pittsburgh, once a dynamo of heavy industry, will soon become home to the country’s largest urban farm, part of what advocates say is a trend to transform former manufacturing cities into green gardens. The Hilltop Urban Farm will open in 2019, consisting of 23 acres (9 hectares) of farmland where low-income housing once stood, two miles (3 km) from the city center, designers say. On top of farmland where winter peas and other fresh produce will be grown by local residents and sold in the community, the farm will feature a fruit orchard, a youth farm and skills-building program. Hillside land will eventually have trails. The farm is believed to be by far the largest nationwide to be located in an urban area, said Aaron Sukenik, who heads the Hilltop Alliance that is coordinating the initiative...Open to local residents, the farm will help bring fresh food to surrounding areas that often lack such options, he said. Pittsburgh has the largest percentage of people residing in communities with “low-supermarket access” for cities of 250,000 to 500,000 people, according to a 2012 report by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. And local advocates say much of Pittsburgh’s Southside, where the farm will be located, is particularly underserved by supermarkets and other retailers of fresh food...A common concern with urban farms is their reliance on grants that eventually dry out, said Stan Ernst, a professor of agribusiness development also at Pennsylvania State University. The $9.9 million Hilltop Urban Farm is funded by foundations, primarily the Henry L. Hillman Foundation. “Look for ways that you can operate enough like a business that you can hopefully provide a level of sustainability there,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone."

Posted September 11th, 2017