274. Braddock Farm | Grow Pittsburgh | Nick Lubecki

Grow Pittsburgh

I know you are a going to love this interview I did with RockStar Millennial  Nick Lubecki as much as I did because I listened to it today as I drove to work. So the shownotes are  completely raw from the day we actually spoke. I didn’t have time to fix them but they are great! I have 20 episodes in the bank I can’t wait to share. In an ideal world, I would share them all right away! But in reality it’s all I can usually do to produce one a week. I will try though to get them caught up so they are current! In the meantime I hope you enjoy as much as I do. I’ve been having some sound problems too it seems in Andony’s podcast last week I thought I was too loud, this one I feel like I am can’t always hear everything I say? I’m as frustrated as you are that way, as I just copy and save everything, the settings don’t really change? I feel like ever since January 2018 I’ve been struggling with my sound? But I think you will love the content as much as I enjoyed recording it! Happy Spring Everyone!

Tuesday February 5th, 2019

Today we have a rockstar millennial Nick Lubecki from Grow Pittsburgh who is giving a presentation on Learning Circle: Weed Management in Intensive Veggie Production.

275. Nick Ludbecki Braddocks Farm

Tell us a little about yourself.

Right now I am the Farm Manager

which is a project of Grow Pittsburgh


  • urban nonprofit
  • help people start community gardens around the county
  • we have 2 urban farms

Currently I manage the Braddock farm about an acre or so

borough of Braddock

town just outside  Pittsburgh

last remaining steel mill in the next door

It reminds me of the Brooklyn Grange on your website with the urban mill and the farm together.

Yeah! It’s a great photo shot for sure!

Tell me about your first gardening experience?

my first memory visiting grandparents in northern PA

They had a huge garden

  • fruit trees
  • sunflowers
  • all that sort of thing

as a kid I was really excited about that!

at our home, my grandmother helped put together our first big garden, Imust have been 5-6 years old. 

Do you have brothers and sisters?

Yeah, we were all involved at first, eventually became me and my brother and we’re still growing together today!

we are about an hour about north of the city! I’ve been gardening for a while!

Tell us about that. How does a millennial come to be growing as an adult.


subsistence crops


I had that as a background

as a child the thing I liked to do with my free time was hangout out in the garden and in the backyard

When I moved to Pittsburgh to go to school I missed it. As soon as I could I got gardening again

gardens a couple of years then got a couple of urban community gardens growing

At some point, I remember working at a grocery store

not being very satisfied with my life. 

I’ve always been into homesteading and wanted to grow all your own food and preserve it

decided to try to work on a farm so I quit my job and got a job on a farm in central PA

been doing that every sense

big step from gardening to working on a 6 acre vegetable farm

what I wanted to do

love watching the plants grow and being able to take it back and cook with it

worked on farms

start my first farm in 2012

had an urban farm with a couple of friends in the city and did that for a year

some one had an urban farm hadn’t been used in a bit. They weren’t using

Got a start out there

after that season I was sold on it.

Later started a bigger farm


great way to get a taste of doing our own thing

after that season sold

did that for a couple of years

I know my listeners are wondering, our goal is to grow enough food for us to eat to supplement our produce at least. do you have any tips for going through that curve. 

I found it really valuable to work for somebody else already doing it

so many things you don’t even think of

farmer has already thought of them

Weather working or work trade for a farmer

valuable insights

What’s a good example of one thing you learned?


of having produce for market

having knowing when to harvest before your market

depending day of week

do I do it that morning or the day before? Depending on the time of market

how to wash everything in an efficient way

presentable at a a market stand

bunches of herbs like cilantro and then at the market stand they just wilt into hour

put in a plastic bag

most significant things

working for someone who was able to have a consistent offering as much as possible throughout the season

  • lettuce the whole season
  • carrots the whole season
  • customers used to the grocery store where they have everything all the time
  • expectation that people are disappointed if you don’t have tomatoes in May

beyond our capacity

How do you sell your produce? CSA or Market or 

I’ve done all three in the past


biggest goal is to grow produce for the town of Braddock

no grocery store

  • farm stand
  • sell to some stores in the town as well

That’s the main goal for vegetable farm

We also

use our space to fundraise for our efforts of providing produce for the neighborhood

We also sell to restaurants

2 outlets

We’re members of a farmers coop called Penn’s Corner here in western PA

They handle the ordering and the logistics of that. We just drop everything off at the warehouse, it’s worth it for us!

Do you get a smaller profit then?

yeah. That’s definitely true


it can be nice

depends on how you do it

planning for a market stand vs planning for wholesale


took me a while

market want it to be pretty diverse

thin margins

handful of crops for wholesale

grow things like salad

we’re not

weather here is all over the place usually

last week we had couple of days of highs in the single digits

today highs in the 50s

yesterday in the 60s

30s and 40s for highs

maple sugaring

How did you learn how to garden organically?

well my grandparents had a big compost pile

thought it was a magical process

scraps turned into what looked like dirt

mom had a copy of the rodale envy

read that when I was a kid

before the internet

resource for gardening info


also I didn’t really know what I was going just reading ab look

trying to figure it out on my own

working on a farm

helped me learn the practical application of a lot of those things

when to do something about a problem 

Tell us about something that grew well this year.

Ok! I’ve been trying to figure out for a couple of years celery

pretty wet here, get a lot of fungal disease

tried a couple of different varieties

really good celery for the first time

one people buy

don’t often see at the farm stand

we also had

did red, yellow, orange bell peppers


different colors

that really turned our farmstead into a rainbow

looked really nice

I also, tried out transplanting green beans

did that last

it worked really well

that kind of

plant green beans every couple of weeks to have them all season

buys us extra weeks by transplanting them

planted them at the time at the direct sow

pretty excited

more space

on an acre

trying to cycle through crops

one or two more crops

first crop

double triples

faster too

Is there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?

I like trying things out every year

something trying right now

overwinter strawberries

plant in the fall

for us was sept

cover with row cover

supposed to produce first June with good yields

have them in the ground see if it works

along those lines

try to have as many crops as we can as early as possible

more things in June

our last frost date

middle of may

couple of high tunnels

June is like the least exciting farm stand

green things radishes

as much as we can add to that

better anyway

good luck


zucchini and cucumbers earlier

red yellow


some green

ready in June

weren’t picking them waiting to turn colors

customers more fruit

planted some blackberries and red raspberries

should produce for this season

red raspberries in high tunnel

should have a longer picking season

rains a lot

off of the berries

rot right when you pick it

red raspberries

grown outside

fruit flies


look forward

ever bearing ones

i have tried those before

bigger farm

my experience you get a little bit at a time

backyard garden too

snacking thing

Tell me about something that didn’t work so well this season.

Every couple of years I try to do some broccoli as long as I can

had a couple of weeks of good broccoli


got too hot

hotter weather ones

broccoli didn’t do so well

I think I sold about a handful of units

not gonna grow it

sales weren’t there

okra transplanted

did really well at first

early okra

did great

got about 2 feet tall

stopped growing

used to okra getting 7 feet tall

do some transplanting

some transplant and some direct

get 2 rounds

apart from each other

direct seed root system can get bigger

yeah, yields suffered

it was still ok

able to bring it to market every week till the season was over

lot of demand for okra

could have had more

half the plants just stopped growing


some plants have tap roots

okra has a tap root

damage the root

I was thinking along those lines

stopped a certain point

doing it 2-3 rounds

separated by a couple of weeks could be good

spread out the damage

whenever gets to that point

great cucumber year

and a bad year

try to have cukes whole season

have a bug


spreads wilt

keep getting killed off

later in the season

downy mildew

finishes them off

manage that

if I have cucumbers in Sept

I consider myself pretty lucky

breaks in the season

disappointed when we didn’t have cukes

keep on top

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Now Let’s Get to the Root of Things!

Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden?

So, let’s see, I’m not getting any younger

stress the back I’m less excited about

hire in younger people on the farm

pushing more of the bending tasks over to the younger people

picking green beans


What is your favorite activity to do in the garden.

I mostly do more tasks then I don’t like

like harvesting

time of year

doing a lot of planing for the season

for that

got all my maps and seed catalogs together

plan for the year

seeing what worked well

tweaking the plan

all pretty exciting

a random task that I really like

hand weeding

as a management strategy

do a lot of hoeing

really like enjoy hand weeding

don’t get to do as much as I used to

delegate that task out



What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?

I heard this from assistant farm manager first farm I ever worked on

he said this a lot

all farmers think all other farmers are crazy

I like that sentiment

one will say they’re doing something

and someone will say

not one right way

everyone figures out their own system for themselves.

A favorite tool that you like to use? 

If you had to move and could only take one tool with you what would it be?

I really like a good hoe

I think it’s called a gooseneck, swank

half moon

3 inches wide

tilt it on it’s side

inch wide

different type of hoeing in different situations

use that a lot

keep on top with the hoe

second favorite

nicest things

looks like

A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?

I have so many! I really like cooking all the vegetables

some gems

one thing I really like

is tomato and corn soup

tomato soup sweet corn inside of it

during the season don’t get to do as much exciting cooking as I like

BLT sandwich

fast and easy to make

getting into growing sweet onion

nice tomato

don’t always

butter lettuce


really nice

sweet onions

during the season

if I do have some time


grill all the vegetables on the grill


grill all the little parts of summer





A favorite internet resource?

A favorite reading material-book, mag, blog/website etc you can recommend?

Growing For Market

Another magazine

Vegetable Growers News

I grow organically

mainstream conventional growers magazine

find it interesting


If you have a business to you have any advice for our listeners about how to sell extra produce or get started in the industry?

That’s an interesting one

I’m learning

as I get older

I have less free time then I used to

it depends on where you are in life

kind of time you have

when I was younger

it was fine to start a business

start doing a weekly farmers market cSA

with less time it feels like it might b ea. good idea

less time

focus on one outlet

partner with one restaurant

grow one or two crops

everyone loves sweet corn and tomatoes

nice thing for a road side stand

getting started

doing something

a lot easier to add on to what your already doing

small way to get

Final question-

if there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?

If I could narrow it down to one thing

the most important thing

connect people to nature

to from some sort of relationship to the natural world

if we have relationship we can value it

that’s key to everything

we are so disconnected

to not even know what we’re missing

build that relationship

gardening is a great way

feed ourself and get to know plants


world around us

where you are

what makes sense there

learning lessons climate where I’m at

what I have to do to grow certain things

being out there

learn about the birds



what times

these things become familiar and important to me

then I care about them

that’s really important

we just naturally

we humans

give everything a personality

humanize everything around us

important to do with the natural world

treat the plants like they’re people

they do a lot on their own

they feed me

I take care of them


key to

keeping our

way of life in the long run

just building that relationship that’s mutual for us

not beneficial for both

not work

it’s tricky too

there has been a lot of interest in tech

health care sector here

I feel like a lot of folks in pittsburgh are outside that whole system

not easy to get a job in either

back in the day

anyone could get a job there

need a lot of degrees and expensive education

definitely benefits



here for

good paying jobs

not everybody is able

talking about that for a while

a goal of ours is to help people feel empowered

start a garden

great way to take control of your own health

save some money

workshops for


We have a school curriculum.

school gardens

age ranges

grow food for the communities that were in

hope and empower

Do you have an inspiration tip or quote to help motivate our listeners to reach into that dirt and start their own garden?

I guess IDK someone, this is unrelated quote to gardening but it’s 

“The secret is to begin”

I think a lot of farming is just start,

I know what I was gonna say, my big goal was to grow an herb this winter, IDK if it’s cause I never had a baby to nurture everyday or what but I am struggling to keep my herbs alive? I did grow a few things. I have learned a lot in 4 years, I’ve had some successes, I’m definitely struggling with my baby herbs.

great way to look at a garden

I’m terrible with houseplants

easier when its outsides

outdoor plant it’s not all up to me



How do we connect with you?

Where do they find Braddock Farm to they go to Grow Pittsburgh website?

You can go to our website at growpittsburgh.org

read all about our organization and all the things we do

On Instagram @growpittsburg

social media

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About the author, Jackie Marie

I'm an artist and educator. I live at the "Organic Oasis" with my husband Mike where we practice earth friendly techniques in our garden nestled in the mountains of Montana.

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