ShareThis Page

Shaler student hopes garden plan grows

| Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Submitted | Pine Creek Journal
Shaler Area High School junior Sam Bartsch is competing for a $25,000 grant through the State Farm Neighbhorhood Assist program to create off-grid gardens and provide produce to schools and neighborhoods in the Pittsburgh area.
Submitted | Pine Creek Journal
Shaler Area High School junior Sam Bartsch is competing for a $25,000 grant through the State Farm Neighbhorhood Assist program to create off-grid gardens and provide produce to schools and neighborhoods in the Pittsburgh area.

Sam Bartsch grew up surrounded by gardeners. Now he's working to bring his passion for fresh produce to less advantaged students and neighborhoods.

Bartsch, a junior at Shaler Area High School, created Off-Grid Gardens, an initiative to bring environmentally friendly produce to disadvantaged communities by building solar-powered greenhouses and community gardens.

Bartsch's project recently was recognized as a “highly commended” project by the Volvo Environmental Program, a partnership between Volvo and the United Nations Environmental Program, but Bartsch hopes the community will support him as he competes for a $25,000 grant that would help his program grow.

Off-Grid Gardens is one of the 200 finalists competing in the State Farm Neighborhood Assist program that will grant 40 $25,000 grants to the top vote-getters.

“This gives us a chance to reach out to organizations that we may not know about or have a tie to,” said Dave Phillips, State Farm spokesperson.

“Everybody has a chance. This helps to promote the causes that may not otherwise get (attention) … it's a really neat opportunity to engage and truly make a difference.”

The competition, which runs through April 22, is conducted through social media at

Community members have the opportunity to vote up to 10 times each day.

“I definitely hope it's unique enough for people to take notes and support,” Bartsch said. “I'm excited to have the opportunity to start my program and get the funds to do it.”

If Bartsch wins one of the $25,000 grants, he plans to take five greenhouses on his family's property — Bartsch Greenhouses, in Shaler Township — off the electric grid by converting them to solar power and installing rain barrels to create self-sustaining greenhouse.

The greenhouses, which are not used during winter months, would be used to grow produce seedlings, which would be transplanted during warm weather.

“I want to use that produce to educate all the district schools what it means to be off-grid and locally grown,” Bartsch said. “Eventually the goal is to get into inner city schools.”

Bartsch said his project is twofold, to give lower income areas the opportunity to eat healthy, and educate communities about the environmental impact of transporting and selling produce.

The initiative will start locally at the Shaler Area schools as it continues to grow. Bartsch also is working with county councilman Corey O'Connor to establish a garden in Hazelwood.

“The project itself is still growing, if we don't win State Farm that won't be the end of our project,” Bartsch said. “But I'm really hoping the community rallies together around this program.”

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.