Photo by Alyse Horn
Bill Brittain and Natasha Dean, owner and co-owner of Rescue Street Farms.
By Alyse Horn
The disco ball still hangs from the ceiling in the old Workingmen’s Beneficiary Union building, and posters still don the walls from the “WBU Millennium Bash: Friday, 12-31-99.”
Today if you drive by 1958 Varley St., you’d notice a transformation is underway. The space, inside and out, is undergoing renovations and home to Rescue Street Farms and Spring Hill Brewery. The brewery is owned by Greg Kamerdze and Mike Seamans.
Bill Brittain, who bought the space in March 2015, and Natasha Dean, co-owner of the farm, started a garden in the back of the building and a green house is currently underway. In July they will begin to sell the produce at the Swissvale Farmers Market, and in the future hope to build partnerships with local restaurants that will incorporate vegetables from the farm into their menus.
When Brittain and Dean were laying ground for the garden, three sycamore trees needed to be cut down because of disease or death. Turning a negative into a positive, Dean said they decided to try an old permaculture technique to recycle the trees that is called Hugelkultur.
Four foot trenches were dug up and down the garden, then the cut up sycamore trees were placed in the holes and covered with compost. Dean said this sort of a “long term plan,” and the trees and compost should help retain moisture and nutrients for years to come because of the gradual decay of the wood.
Inside the building, construction is underway. Dean said with such a large space, there are a lot of ideas floating around of what it could be, but the first priority is getting the brewery in. Once Kamerdze and Seamans have solidified their territory, Dean said she and Brittain plan on creating a game room with bocce courts, shuffle boards, and other less traditional games. Patrons will also be able to rent the space out for events, and Dean said there has been talk of possibly turning it into a co-op.
From experience, Brittain and Dean know what is needed to bring the endeavor to fruition. In 2011, Brittain opened Shadyside Nursery with Mike Georges. The nursery is also a location for two other small businesses: Shadyside Worms and BeeBoy hives and honey. And every Sunday the nursery hosts Weather Permitting, an outdoor weekly concert series with live bands, food trucks, and local beer.
For updates on Rescue Street Farms, visit their Facebook page.