Nick Lubecki, a 29-year-old East Liberty resident, moved his vegetable farm this year from an urban plot in Stanton Heights to about an acre of new ground in suburban Allison Park. He now farms under the name Butter Hill Farm while working part time at Tree Pittsburgh.
Your city farm was called Knotweed Urban Farm. What was it like?
We had this group of aspiring farmers. It was kind of a little incubator farm. The infrastructure was already there. It had really good soil; it had been farmed organically for years. It was right by our house. But ... the owners [of the land] are exploring other uses.
What have been the biggest adjustments?
There's the commute. I'm doing a work share, paying people in vegetables. I was concerned, wondering if people would want to come out. Before, they could just bike up the hill. But so far it doesn't seem like it's been an issue.
[Stanton Heights] was set up as a vegetable farm. This is not. There is a pond and a pump, which I'll be able to use to irrigate things. Before, there was a buried water line with a water hookup every 20 feet. It was the easiest thing in the world. This won't be too bad. But little things like that.
Why not move closer to the farm?
The nice thing about the city is there are other people there. I worked on a farm in Ohio, and lived in a shack in the woods. There wasn't a whole lot going on.
Is farming profitable?
Some day it would be nice to make a living doing just farming. We did really well last year on two-thirds of an acre. That was really inspiring. It made me believe it's possible to make a living on farming.
How do you compare farming in the city to the suburbs?
In the city, there's definitely a serious concern about contaminants in the soil, and I don't have to worry about that here. ... I really enjoyed being an urban farmer. I think I'll really enjoy being a suburban farmer, too. This may be a very good balance.