I love the physical nature of [working outside at the farm] and all of the practical skills I am gaining. The Food Policy Council has opened my eyes to broader perspectives and issues surrounding food. Now I not only enjoy eating food, I am interested in learning more about who has access, where my food is coming from, and how to create a more just system. Both placements have driven me to learn more.”
Food issues are a big part of Jess Sprunger’s Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience (PULSE) year. She spends half of her time at Garfield Community Farm and half of her time at Pittsburgh Food Policy Council.
On top of a hill in the Garfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh sits Garfield Community Farm. In their green space you’ll find fruit trees, a labyrinth prayer garden, and a bio-shelter that houses rabbits, chickens, and an extensive selection of crops. Learn more about Garfield Community Farm in this Partner Story.
The Pittsburgh Food Policy Council brings local nonprofits, government and community stakeholders together to create a just and sustainable food system in Pittsburgh.
Jess came to PULSE after graduating from Goshen College with a Bachelor’s degree in fine art. The community aspect of PULSE attracted her to the program.
“It’s nice to have a built in support system as you move to and explore a new city,” said Jess. “I have made some great friends and enjoy visiting all the PULSE houses.”
Sara Alvarez: Describe a typical day at your placements.
Jess Sprunger: A typical day at Garfield Community Farm starts with taking care of the chickens and rabbits: bringing them food and water, and collecting eggs. Then, depending on the day, I either plant or harvest and deliver micro-greens (specialty greens restaurants use to garnish plates) to local restaurants. We continue to grow micros during the winter in our bioshelter space.
Other tasks include picking up coffee grounds from local coffee shops to mix in with our compost and sending out updates about the farm and its current happenings. In the winter there is less to do at the farm which creates an opportunity for me to learn. My supervisor John has been teaching me about permaculture, a system of sustainable agriculture, and how we apply it to the farm. We meet and discuss what we read over coffee, and, hopefully, I will have a stronger knowledge base as we enter the next growing season.
At the Food Policy Council I am a jack-of-all-trades. My current project is to research the history of urban agriculture in Pittsburgh. I’m finding photos and other documentation to help create a visual display. I also read articles about anything and everything related to the food system, trying to gain a better understanding of the issues in the current food system in Pittsburgh.
Sara: What do you enjoy most about your Garfield Community Farm and the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council?
Jess: I have enjoyed working outside at the farm. I love the physical nature of the job and all of the practical skills I am gaining. The Food Policy Council has opened my eyes to broader perspectives and issues surrounding food. Now I not only enjoy eating food, I am interested in learning more about who has access, where my food is coming from, and how to create a more just system. Both placements have driven me to learn more and gather all of the information I can about the social implications of food.
Sara: What is the most interesting/fun adventure you’ve had in Pittsburgh this year?
Jess: Exploring the city with my fellow PULSErs is always a fun adventure, whether we’re biking across town, attending a live Moth event, or touring Phipps Conservatory. I think we all carry this sense of adventure and enjoy sharing it with one another.
Sara: Tell me about something you’ve learned about yourself through PULSE?
Jess: I have learned that I do not want a desk job for the rest of my life. I enjoy working outside and the sense of accomplishment I feel after finishing a physical task. I have also learned that even though I’ve never considered myself a city person, Pittsburgh is a pretty cool place with lots to offer.
Sara: What’s your favorite “family meal” recipe for the house?
Jess: My go-to recipe is sweet potato black bean burritos from Simply in Season. It’s a great recipe that can be adapted to feed a million people…or at least 16 for PULSE potlucks. [One of Jess’s housemates also loves this recipe!] I also have enjoyed making bread, I really want to make a sourdough starter.
Sara: What surprised you most so far about participating with PULSE and/or living in Pittsburgh?
Jess: I’m continually surprised by how easily my week fills up. There is so much to do in the city and if I’m not careful, I suddenly have every weeknight filled!
Story by PULSE Alumna Sara Alvarez.
Read more stories about the participant experience with PULSE. If you would like to learn more about the PULSE program, please visit our Serve with Us page.