Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Bucking the Trend: Gallagher’s Groovy Growing

Megan Gallagher is part of a small cadre of young farmers bucking demographic trends.




photos by laura petrilla

 

From spring to autumn, food-minded Pittsburghers gather at Megan Gallagher’s be.wild.er Farm table at the Bloomfield Saturday Market. They fill their baskets with goods from neatly arranged stacks of peak-season produce, dazzling flowers and hard-to-find crops such as okra.

Most farmers in the United States are men, and they are getting old. Gallagher, 28, wasn’t planning on joining the small cadre of young farmers bucking that trend.

According to data from the USDA Census of Agriculture, the average age of a farmer in 1987 was 52, in 2012 it was 58.3. And while there is a slight uptick in young farmers, those between 25 and 34, they still represent only 5 percent of the farmers in the United States. There’s been a decrease in women who are principal operators of a farm, too — just 14 percent of farms have a woman as the primary operator, a 6 percentage point downtick since 2007.

When she first listed her major at Chatham University, it was in art history. Farming — or growing anything — wasn’t part of her vocabulary. “I wasn’t a person who grew up with a backyard garden. Mine was very much suburban, ‘ye old lawn’ type childhood,” she says.

Hands-on experience in an organic gardening class changed the paradigm. “Watching my work turn into something that was tangible, that was something that was nourishing and I could enjoy, was exciting for me,” she says.



Suddenly, environmental science, plant physiology and biology were more relevant than the surrealists and the mods. Gallagher ruminated on a plant-based laboratory career, but an internship on a production farm convinced her that she’d rather be out in the field. Her first paid farm job was with Edible Earth Farm in Tionesta. She says that her next gig, working with farmer Nick Lubecki at Butter Hill Farm in Allison Park, inspired her to find a plot of her own. “Seeing that someone in a similar situation to me — limited resources, renting land, living off-farm — was able to not only make it work but make it a fun and fulfilling project to be a part of, affirmed that I could do it too,” she says.

In 2016, Gallagher broke ground on be.wild.er Farm on land rented from Greg and Jennifer Boulos, owners of the progressive Blackberry Meadows Farm in Natrona Heights. Gallagher farms on 1 acre, which is small enough, she says, to work by hand.

Her limited acreage means she and her small team of farmshare volunteers have to plan a precise rotation of vegetables and cover crops to maximize yield. That produce lands at a select group of restaurants such as The Vandal, Station and brunoise, as well as at her Saturday market stand. There, she says, “I get a nice mix of customers who are willing to experiment. Maybe they’re looking for spinach, but they’ll take my recipe suggestion for tatsoi.”

Gallagher says that young farmers, particularly those who don’t come from farming families, face barriers to entry that begin with access to land and capital but also include seemingly mundane issues such as how to form a business plan and file taxes. Much like wrangling row covers blown over a hillside or dealing with tomato hornworms on a scorching summer afternoon, though, overcoming those challenges is rewarding.

“I like to be able to look over the field and see that work I’ve done and the progress that I’ve made,” she says. “Seeing the small steps makes me see the bigger picture when it’s hard.”
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Hungry for Something Good, Pittsburgh? Where We're Eating in July

Lidia Bastianich Shares Her American Dream in a New Memoir

PM Dining Critic Hal B. Klein talks to the celebrated chef, restauranteur, television host and author about grandparents, foraging and the plight of refugees seeking a better life in the United States.

They Prayed to Our Lady of the Roller Coaster

Two local priests –– riding the Phantom's Revenge to promote Catholic Day at Kennywood –– create a viral video. Along the way they deliver a most unusual sermon.

The Homestead Artist with a Worldwide Reputation

Jesse Best maintains a presence in New York and Tokyo. But, he says, Pittsburgh has been 10 times better to him than any other place.

The 400-Word Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The fifth "Jurassic Park" film is fun. Empty, somewhat disappointing fun.

Local Brewery Resolves Trademark Dispute With Sass

After Pitt ordered Voodoo Brewery to stop production of its "H2P American IPA," the company relaunched the beer under a new name.

Sprout Fund Passes the Torch

50 Pittsburghers to receive $1,000 Legacy Award to carry on the nonprofit’s vision.

Pirates Can Be Show Stoppers if They Follow Brault's Lead

A Broadway musical about the life and times of the Pittsburgh Pirates? The idea might not be as farfetched as you think.

Pirates Pitcher Steven Brault has Pretty Good Pipes Too

The Pirates reliever sang the national anthem Tuesday night before the Bucs hosted the Brewers at PNC Park. It's worth watching, especially for his teammates' reaction at the end.

Crime in the South Side Has Fallen Dramatically

Illegal activity plunged along East Carson Street following several new security measures.

Fired by City Paper — Charlie Deitch Won’t Be Silenced

The former editor of the Pittsburgh alt-weekly is creating his own "more inclusive" publication.

Czechoslovakia was Forged in Pittsburgh

Rick Sebak details how the establishment of the European nation began with a meeting Downtown.

Brick by Brick: Legos Go High Art

Made entirely out of Legos, the sculptures on the display at the Carnegie Science Center’s new Scaife Exhibit Gallery range from the whimsical to the otherworldly.

Mike Chen, Dean of the Chinese Kitchen

The owner of Everyday Noodles looks to encourage more regionally specific Chinese food in Pittsburgh restaurants.

MultiStories: Real Estate – The Machesney Building

Visitors can still ogle the lavish marble and bronze interior crafted to appeal to the original owner's banker and stockbroker tenants.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


They Prayed to Our Lady of the Roller Coaster

They Prayed to Our Lady of the Roller Coaster

Two local priests –– riding the Phantom's Revenge to promote Catholic Day at Kennywood –– create a viral video. Along the way they deliver a most unusual sermon.

Comments

Local Brewery Resolves Trademark Dispute With Sass

Local Brewery Resolves Trademark Dispute With Sass

After Pitt ordered Voodoo Brewery to stop production of its "H2P American IPA," the company relaunched the beer under a new name.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
What Anthony Bourdain Meant to Me

What Anthony Bourdain Meant to Me

Reflecting on the loss of a person so many of us admired.

Comments

Northeast Kitchen Brings Northeastern Chinese Cuisine to Pittsburgh

Northeast Kitchen Brings Northeastern Chinese Cuisine to Pittsburgh

Chef You Shan Pei comes to Pittsburgh after cooking in Flushing, N.Y. restaurants for 18 years.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Five Best Spots to Get Pittsburgh-Themed Merchandise

The Five Best Spots to Get Pittsburgh-Themed Merchandise

Looking to show off your Pittsburgh love? Get your favorite city printed on basically anything at these local shops.

Comments

7 Best Pittsburgh-Area Places You Should Try for Doughnuts

7 Best Pittsburgh-Area Places You Should Try for Doughnuts

When you're craving the real deal, these local spots consistently churn out the very best.

Comments


The Other Moving Documentary About a Curious Pittsburgher

The Other Moving Documentary About a Curious Pittsburgher

In "Will Work For Views," the video artist and musician Weird Paul is a little bit Dr. Demento and a little bit Mister Rogers.

Comments

Man, There's a Lot Going on at Zone 28

Man, There's a Lot Going on at Zone 28

The relaunched entertainment complex in Harmarville is casting a wide net, with some success.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Pirates Can Be Show Stoppers if They Follow Brault's Lead

Pirates Can Be Show Stoppers if They Follow Brault's Lead

A Broadway musical about the life and times of the Pittsburgh Pirates? The idea might not be as farfetched as you think.

Comments

Olczyk Embraces Awareness, Understanding to Fight Cancer

Olczyk Embraces Awareness, Understanding to Fight Cancer

Olczyk found out last August, in the wake of a six-hour surgery that removed 14 inches of his colon and “a tumor the size of my fist,” the severity of what he was suddenly confronting.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The 400-Word Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The fifth "Jurassic Park" film is fun. Empty, somewhat disappointing fun.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: Won't You Be My Neighbor?

The 400-Word Review: Won't You Be My Neighbor?

The documentary about Fred Rogers' work and philosophy inspires even more wonder about the television legend who called Pittsburgh home.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Toppers That Take the Cake

Toppers That Take the Cake

Over the traditional bride and groom standing on top of your cake? Try some of these different ideas for cake toppers.

Comments

Couple Shares Photo Spotlight With Four-Legged Friends

Couple Shares Photo Spotlight With Four-Legged Friends

This Pittsburgh couple is using their engagement photos to raise awareness about one of their most passionate causes.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
PPG Paints Unveils 2019 Color of the Year: Night Watch

PPG Paints Unveils 2019 Color of the Year: Night Watch

Paying homage to the restorative power of nature, this deep green shade is one to watch in the coming year. Here’s how to use it on your walls.

Comments

Five Pittsburgh-Based Etsy Shops You Need to Know About

Five Pittsburgh-Based Etsy Shops You Need to Know About

From furniture to wall art and beyond, these local makers created one-of-a-kind pieces for your home or office.

Comments