Angela Leishman softly taps the bottom of a square plastic pot releasing a group of arugula plants out of the container. It looks like she’s done this before as she gently pushes the leafy greens into the rich soil filling a tall container on the Suite Level at PNC Park for a planting event on Earth Day. She’s volunteering at the park to help plant the PNC Park Urban Garden, powered by Duquesne Light, which overlooks parts of the North Shore. Leishman is with co-workers from Duquesne Light, who along with others, are putting the plants in place.
“My dad and I used to keep a garden,” she says after planting the arugula. “I’m not an expert, but I did know a little bit about planting,” she added.
The Duquesne Light Company partnered with the Pirates this season to help with the garden. On this brisk morning, Sam Hartzman is relieved her parsley at home survived the night and is here in her capacity of associate manager of corporate citizenship for the company. One part of her job is to oversee Duquesne Light’s sustainability strategy.
“This is a really cool project for us to be involved in and partnering with an organization like the Pirates,” she said. “I’m actually really jealous,” she says while looking over the garden. “They don’t have to worry about groundhogs and deer like the rest of us,” she said laughing.
The large containers have been planted with cool weather crops now and will be supplemented with other varieties as the season progresses.
“This is a really amazing space. I hope when people come to the ballpark now, and in the years to come, they will have an opportunity to check it out,” says Hartzman.
She’s excited to move forward with the project and was happy to have some help to make the collaboration become a reality.
“We were able to build this partnership in tandem with our relationship with Pittsburgh Earth Day,” she said. “What better way to continue to expand and build partnerships across the region, especially as we all work to create a greener and more viable place for all of us to live.”
Back at the container, Tabitha Weaver works in consort with her co-worker Leishman to complete the planting.
“I grew up on a farm, and whenever I told my dad that I was coming down, he said, ‘Look at you, going back to your roots,’” she says laughing. “It was really nice to get out again and get back to the green thumb. I haven’t been able to get back home much due to Covid, so it’s nice to get my hands dirty.”
Although the third member of this small planting group isn’t as experienced as the other two, Ashley Macik succeeded in planting more of the arugula perfectly.
“I’m trying, she says with a chuckle, I’m very much into Earth Day and environmental causes. It’s something I’d like to do more often.” The apartment dweller dreams of a garden when the time is right and even fantasizes about raising honey bees.
Other Pittsburgh Pirates Green Urban Initiatives
Pirates president Travis Williams announced the partnership while overlooking the garden.
“Duquesne Light is a proud partner of the Pittsburgh Pirates,” he says, “and we are doing a couple of things together. One is they are the marquee sponsor, along with Pirates Charities, working with us on the Urban Garden.”
The other is called the Duquesne Light Power Hitters program, Duquesne Light and Pirates Charities will partner to plant a tree for every home run the Pirates hit this season.
“We’re going to work with Tree Pittsburgh to plant those throughout the Pittsburgh region in underserved neighborhoods that could benefit from tree planting for a number of reasons,” Williams added.
For Tree Pittsburgh, this is wonderful news.
“What I’m most excited about is that the Pirates have such a community presence, having them on our side to get the word out about the importance of trees is going to be huge,” said Danielle Crumrine executive director of the organization. She’s thrilled to think after each home run, that the Jumbotron will be filled with that important message about planting the trees. Tree Pittsburgh will be using big trees for the projects, not saplings for instant impact, Crumrine added.
“The neighborhood right outside the park has less than 10 percent tree canopy,” she says. The city average is 40 percent. “We really want to get trees where people live, they get the shade and the beauty trees provide,” she says.
Cooling is one great reason to add trees, but also capturing stormwater, reducing runoff, and cleaning the air are just some of the other benefits trees provide in an urban setting.
Tree Pittsburgh also has a Tree Adoption Program. Residents can register online. The organization will be distributing over 1000 trees each season.
The Pirates partnered with Grow Pittsburgh in 2018 to help with the horticultural needs of the space.
“It’s really important for us to show what’s capable in urban farming on any scale,” says Denele Hughson, executive director of Grow Pittsburgh of why they are here. The organization also has youth programing at PNC, bringing students to the park to see all aspects related to careers.
This Urban Garden has produced 300 pounds of produce yearly which is used to serve visitors.
“The Urban Garden powered by Duquesne Light really speaks to our sustainability,” says Pirates director of business communications Terry Rodgers. “It’s two iconic brands coming together to really make a difference.”
The Pirates won the Green Glove award in the National League Central for their 75 percent diversion rate, meaning 75 percent of what once was headed into the waste stream did not make it to the landfill. It was the highest rate in the division.
“To have a space like this in the ballpark, and for our fans to be able to see the things they’re going to be eating actually being grown here is a really cool thing,” he added.
Finishing up planting, Angela Leishman reflects on spending Earth Day at PNC Park.
“It was wonderful to be around people, especially with the pandemic and to be part of something like this Urban Garden. It’s just been fabulous,” she says. “Just seeing things grow — It’s just amazing to see.”