I was the girl who was supposed to move, had my dad on the way to pick me up and drive me to Philly, but then, I was the girl who threw such a good going-away party I convinced myself to stay. He was the guy who was wandering the nation in a VW van. He was visiting Pittsburgh, and he wasn’t supposed to stay, but he just didn’t leave.
I like to think this city pulled us together, that something larger than both of us knew we’d be better together, more balanced together. He takes bold risks, prefers dirt to desks, and shrugs his shoulders at rules, but he also has sky-high ambitions, a selfless attitude and believes farms can save us. I like to feel in control, like to make rules and plan, plan, plan. I’ll obsess over work for others but often put my own nagging dreams on a back burner…that is, until he nudges me.
For so long, this idea has been stewing. Even the name existed before. “Harvest & Gather,” but the name was wrong before. I used it preemptively, on the wrong partnership. It was meant to be us, describes our passions perfectly. He fills our home with garlic harvests and dreams of dipping his paws in honey like Pooh Bear. I collect plates and dream of farm tables, but both of us care about land, farms and farmers. We care about the real conversations surrounding these topics, and I care about that conversation being wrapped in beauty. Not enough is wrapped in beauty lately.
So it is, with lots of nudging from the Urban Farmer, we have united around an ampersand. “Harvest & Gather” is anew, and I hope you’ll join us, hope you’ll support our mission and hope you’ll spread the word on our behalf.
Simply put, Harvest & Gather will be a series of farm dinners. There are more and more farm dinners on the summer lineups these days, and these dinners have their place. I’m grateful for the scenic tables and the way these events have begun to point the conversation toward local, toward the workload, toward the labor of love it takes to plant seeds and tend to them.
However, what we offer will be different. We’re moving the farm dinners away from the farm, inviting guests to overlooked spaces with transformation potential. We’re calling attention to the aged bones of our city, to the storied layers and the past, through design, food and storytelling. My sentiments for architecture preservation run parallel to my sentiments for farms. There are lessons in bricks and in seeds that we risk losing.
The underlying theme of the Harvest & Gather series is the idea of transformation. First, we partner with chefs who have transformed the Pittsburgh food scene through their focus on local agriculture. Second, we find venues that are typically unavailable to diners and transform them, through design, into a one-night-only experience, often breathing new life into forgotten spaces. Lastly, the series as a whole narrates the process and reasoning behind transforming blighted, abandoned lots into Hazelwood Urban Farms.
Each dinner will narrate a different chapter in the farm’s story: Dirt, Seeds, Pollinators… and so on. We’re partnering with chefs who will find inspiration in compost, in saving seeds, in the impressive organizational behaviors of bees. These thematic explorations result in a deeper, more meaningful connection to the source of our food, and those who transform it. We are reconnecting guests to their yards, their kitchens and their neighbors, one gathering at a time.
And these dinners come at what some might call a hefty price because we need to start paying for quality food and for creative services. I’m not just inviting guests to a dinner, we’re inviting guests to invest in an experience. Just as he pours his heart and soul into the soil, I’ll pour my heart and soul into each theme. The themes may repeat, but the dinners will never be the same.
Our first dinner is soon! “Dirt: The Foundation.” We’ll start at the beginning, with remediation and health. We’ll share the story of the Urban Farmer’s reconnection to his food, the sources of his inspiration. I’ll share the wild paths my imagination takes when I step into our venue…which will remain secret until the purchase of a ticket.
Our first chef, Kevin Sousa, is one who blazed many trails of his own. He put restaurants in questionable neighborhoods. He prioritized design and altered what fine dining looked like in our city. Then he set his sights on food with more meaning, even more accessibility. He’s been humble and gracious in our scheming and truly understands our mission.
What it boils down to:
Hyper-local, urban ingredients + design + talented chefs
See you soon!
p.s: Special thanks to our photographer for this series, Tom O’Connor.