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Category Archive: Drew Mathieson Center

  1. Drew Mathieson Center and Chatham University explore controlled environment agriculture at center’s greenhouse

    The Drew Mathieson center for Horticultural and Agricultural Technology (DMC) remains dedicated to the preparation for the next stage in the DMC greenhouse operational evolution: the transition of approximately one-half of the existing commercial production space from floriculture to Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA). DMC is collaborating with strategic partners to break down the entire system into individual segments and identify associated best practices.

    Early in the research process Chatham University’s Falk School of Sustainability and Environment was identified as a valuable collaborative partner organization. DMC partnered with Chatham University as a case study for two graduate-level courses, Fall 2018’s Applied Green and Social Innovation and Spring 2019’s Urban Agriculture.

    Chatham University students received an in-depth orientation to DMC’s unique operating model, its history, and an outline of DMC’s CEA initiative. Students in the Applied Green and Social Innovation course developed and provided the “Hydroponics and Controlled Environment Agriculture in Western Pennsylvania Product Market Report.” The report reinforced the need to establish a market and sales outlet before produce is grown or harvested. Niche opportunities are available in the hydroponics and CEA markets through smaller regional distributors of produce and local restaurants. Hydroponic crop recommendations were included with projected volumes and crop price comparisons. The market research concludes organizations are seeking out local vendors with an emphasis on crop quality, selection, and price.

    The Urban Agriculture students reinforced the need to develop a systems approach surrounding the transition to CEA and the potential impacts. They provided guidance to determine initial business planning metrics, identifying strategic partners, challenges, considerations, and opportunities.

    This initiative represents a strategic investment in the CEA industry. The initiative will work to be a catalyst for market and industry growth that will be driven by consumer success and unique educational opportunities. The DMC and Chatham University collaboration is an example of partnerships that work through expanding our organizational impact by the combining of an established urban horticultural and agricultural facility with the research and academic influence of an expanding, cutting-edge university program. Unique and creative partnerships will continue to pave the way for new opportunities focused on research, education, and our ability to cultivate new sales and the expansion of our partner base.

  2. DMC’s Controlled-Environment Agriculture Initiative

    Schematic of controlled-environment agriculture greenhouse at the Drew Mathieson Center for Horticultural and Agricultural Technology.

    The DMC Greenhouse plans to add commercial Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), where food crop production is dependent on creating and maintaining optimum growing conditions in an enclosed structure, to the unique operating model focused on workforce development and will create a new and exciting opportunity to develop educational and career building platforms. With CEA, the environment and plants are monitored by technology and agricultural technicians.

    The DMC Greenhouse’s commercial food production will be focused on hydroponic production techniques and will include a combination of vining crops, herbs, specialty/ mixed greens, lettuce, and microgreens. Growing in a pristine greenhouse environment ensures a product free of disease and contamination. Producing a premium product should not come at the expense of nature’s limited resources. Incorporating principals of conservation and preservation results in a positive impact on the environment while providing a premium product to our customers.

    To grow in the winter months, DMC Greenhouse will utilize LED grow lights to help supplement lighting conditions. Diffused glass is used on greenhouse rooftops for increased quality and production without increase in energy. The addition of these state-of-the-art energy efficient artificial lights, along with natural light will create perfect growing conditions year-round. Implementing environmentally conscious efforts throughout our production facility include the practice of Integrated Pest Management, which reduces pesticide usage and includes the introduction of eco-friendly predator insect to control any harmful pests. In addition, the production strategy of introducing bumble bees allows for natural pollination in the greenhouse.

    Supply chain-wide electronic traceability will be implemented with the development of a Produce Traceability Initiative plan. Consumers and distributors desire to know where their food is coming from and this effort will focus on ensuring a superior quality traceable product. A perfectly controlled, closed environment will allow fruit and vegetable harvest to occur at the peak of ripeness with delivery to our customers within 24 hours.

    Good Agricultural Practices creates strict sanitary guidelines, with innovative growing methods and combining them with exacting, state-of-the-art technologies will allow the DMC Greenhouse to grow premium quality crops.

    The learning environment created at the DMC Greenhouse through the CEA initiative will provide students with expanded opportunities for new and exciting applied learning experiences and a wide range of hands-on training associated with food production. Educational goals will be focused on mastering and managing the science and technology behind the updated DMC Greenhouse and CEA initiative.

    As an incubator for innovative technology and techniques the DMC updates will address areas of conserving resources, operating more efficiently, and incorporating additional AgTech. When complete, the DMC Greenhouse updates will evolve the DMC in to a high-performing facility. In a growing industry, DMC’s evolution to include CEA provides a comprehensive growing laboratory for flowers, food, and the mind.

  3. DMC Greenhouse: Locally Grown Artisan Poinsettias

    Poinsettia crop in the DMC Greenhouse. Photograph courtesy of Mark Wallace.

    The Drew Mathieson Center for Horticultural and Agricultural Technology (DMC) marks its eighth year producing locally grown Poinsettias for the winter holiday season. The DMC Poinsettia crop is one component of a rotating specialty crop schedule that includes Mother’s Day hardy hydrangea and an early summer perennial hibiscus crop.

    The 2018 DMC Poinsettia crop features over 2,200 plants and is a mix of traditional and unique varieties. The crop includes traditional six-inch and eight-inch Poinsettia in decorative pot covers and the DMC Greenhouse Signature Poinsettia topiaries.

    The DMC production team incorporates an artisan approach to all crops grown at the DMC Greenhouse. This skilled, hands-on traditional production approach begins with rooted Poinsettia cuttings that arrive in the greenhouse in early July. The production process continues throughout the next five months with daily cultural care techniques.

    The DMC Greenhouse 2018 Poinsettia crop will be available for retail purchase launching at the DMC Annual Open House event. Wholesale pre-ordering is underway and Poinsettia delivery will begin Monday, November 26th, 2018. DMC Poinsettias can be purchased as individual plants or in coordinated complementary arrangements. DMC plant products provide a high-quality and socially responsible distinction when used as corporate gifts, seasonal event decorations, or purchased in the retail market. Incorporating DMC plants into your life, throughout the year, supports the educational programs of the DMC and Manchester Bidwell Corporation.

    Poinsettia Care Tips

    1. Keep in temperatures between 65–70 degrees

    2. Keep moist but not in sitting water

    3. Sun can be provided

    4. Can be kept year-round with morning sun and water on a regular basis

    5. To re-flower keep the plant in absolute darkness from sundown to sunup every day from October 1
    until Thanksgiving

  4. DMC Greenhouse: Where Hope is Always in Season

    “Where flowers bloom, so does hope” is a well-known quote from former first lady Lady Bird Johnson. As MBC celebrates its 50th anniversary, The Drew Mathieson Center for Horticultural and Agricultural Technology (DMC Greenhouse) celebrates 15 years of growing hope.

    From the establishment of the DMC Greenhouse in 2003, phalaenopsis orchids have flourished in the production greenhouses along with the students who have learned and been inspired within the 40,000-square-foot greenhouse facility.

    The DMC Greenhouse production schedule and associated educational programming have evolved over the years to reflect the needs of the market and the horticulture and agriculture industry.

    The DMC Greenhouse is embracing an operational plan with the goal of developing into a world class comprehensive educational and community resource and the continuing goal of being a successful and sustainable social enterprise.

    The operational plan includes the ongoing development and expansion of youth programming focused on enriching the student STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) experience, enhancing and expanding existing adult career training, and partnering with like minded organizations to develop beneficial industry related relationships.

    According to a recent report, Pennsylvania Agriculture – A Look at the Economic Impact and Future Trends, “The agricultural industry generates approximately $135.7 billion in total economic impact each year and supports 579,000 jobs with $26.9 billion in earnings.” Hydroponics, aquaponics, vertical farming, and aeroponic systems have been outlined by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture as having numerous applications related to community development and sustainability, commercial production, and educational initiatives for various populations.

    An integral element of future DMC Greenhouse operations include some of these sustainable operational systems, including a rain water harvesting system, transitioning to LED grow lights, solar panel installation, update of automated greenhouse environmental control system, expanding organic practices, and more. The addition of various innovative production technologies, including expanded hydroponic systems (vertical farming), aquaponics, and aeroponics as functioning production systems will ensure that the DMC Greenhouse remains on the cutting edge of the horticultural and agricultural industries. The potential transferable nature of these innovative greenhouse systems and production technologies will result in unique creative industry partnerships, increased environmental safety, and increased access for community members and community organizations to ensure a bright future for the DMC Greenhouse, as we continue to grow, teach, and inspire.

  5. Drew Mathieson Center: Sustaining the Future

    Drew Mathieson Center's Seeds in the City

    Drew Mathieson Center’s Seeds in the City Landscape Design course.

    Drew Mathieson Center’s Seeds in the City program provides middle school students with immersive, project-based learning opportunities in a variety of STEAM fields. DMC’s third year of youth programming saw 12 students enrolled in the Seeds in the City Landscape Design elective transform from students into professional landscape designers and experts in sustainability.

    The transformation began when Manchester Academic Charter School students in seventh and eighth grade traveled to Ohiopyle State Park, a first for all students involved. Students learned about the new Laurel Highlands Falls Area Visitor Center’s green roofs and biological wastewater treatment system and met with client Ann Talarek, horticulture specialist at Fallingwater. Talarek tasked students with creating sustainable, native planting plans for a stretch of curbside rain gardens, also known as bioswales, in Ohiopyle’s business district.

    Installed in 2010 as part of the Ohiopyle Green Infrastructure Project, the rain gardens collect and filter stormwater runoff easing stress on existing sewage systems and helping to keep the Youghiogheny River and Ohiopyle Falls clean from contaminates. Some residents have found the gardens to be high maintenance and in need of better upkeep. Talarek reached out to DMC’s Landscape Design class to come up with solutions for these issues.

    Each student designed a scale planting plan for one Sherman Street rain garden with an emphasis on ease of maintenance, maximization of stormwater absorption, and year-round visual interest. Talarek plans to incorporate student designs when the gardens are planted this spring.

    In addition, students Ryen, A’Niyah, and Tyrone also presented their work at Chatham University’s Seeds of Change: Igniting Student Action for Sustainable Communities conference. A joint venture between Fort Cherry School District, South Fayette School District, and Chatham University, the conference was held at Chatham’s Eden Hall Campus, home to the Falk School of Sustainability.

  6. Drew Mathieson Center’s Herb Offerings Worth Your Thyme

    Drew Mathieson Center Whole Foods Market

    Drew Mathieson Center’s herb trios being sold at Whole Foods Market.

    The Drew Mathieson Center’s (DMC) greenhouse is increasing and diversifying its production by growing a wide range of popular herbs and vegetables throughout the production calendar.

    New this year to DMC’s product offerings are a unique variety of thematic herb combinations including the Fiesta, Thanksgiving, Chef ’s Companion, Italian, Tea, Herbs de Provence, and Fragrant Herb blends. The plants include: oregano, rosemary, lavender, basil, sage, thyme, and parsley among others. Potted herbs are also available individually in four-inch pots.

    All potted herbs and vegetables grown at the DMC greenhouse are grown using products that comply with the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) standards. OMRI is an international nonprofit organization that determines which input products are allowed to be used in organic production.

    Current organizations partnering with DMC to provide herb trios and other edible products include Whole Foods Market, Giant Eagle, and McGinnis Sister’s Specialty Food Stores. These partnerships will be focused on DMC’s guiding principles to grow, teach, and inspire. The partnerships will also focus on DMC’s ongoing goal of developing into a comprehensive local resource that includes educating and empowering community members to implement sustainable agricultural practices that promote healthy access to fresh food and conservation initiatives.

    Contact DMC to learn more about where to find our locally grown products and learn more about our unique partnership opportunities.

  7. ‘Genius’ Bill Strickland is more than just a kid from the neighborhood

    Bill Strickland describes himself as “a kid from the neighborhood who got involved in the arts.”

    While that is certainly true, he might also be selling himself a bit short — Strickland, who is the President and CEO of the Manchester Bidwell Corporation, is a MacArthur Fellowship “genius” grant winner, founder of the Grammy-winning subscription jazz series MCG Jazz, and author of Make the Impossible Possible, a book about a kid from Pittsburgh’s ghetto whose crusade to inspire others to achieve the extraordinary would lead him to a board seat at the National Endowment for the Arts and a speaking gig at Harvard, among other things.

    It all started in the 1960s in the Manchester neighborhood on Pittsburgh’s North Side, where Strickland grew up as a disengaged youth. Then he met high school art teacher Frank Ross. Ross showed Strickland the power of art, education and community, and instilled in him an interest in working with the kids through an after-school arts program.

    In 1968, Strickland launched his own small after-school ceramics program. That initiative is now called the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Youth & Arts program — it serves public school students via classes in ceramics, design, digital imaging, 3-D manufacturing and photography.

    By 1972, Strickland had also taken over leadership of the Bidwell Training Center, a struggling job training center near the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild. He rebuilt the organization into a “pretty good” job training and vocational center in partnership with various Pittsburgh area industry leaders.

    Once again, Strickland is being humble: This “pretty good” vocational center is a nationally accredited and state licensed adult career training institution, with programs that range from horticulture to medicine to the culinary arts.

    “We partner with industry leaders to develop curriculum specific to their industries,” explains Strickland. “We have these industry advisory boards that work directly with us. The programs we develop are industry compatible, so as to have a high degree of placement and retention.”

    Manchester Bidwell’s arts education opportunities for public school students are directly connected to this work.

    “Our goal is to improve the retention and graduation rates of public school students using arts as an intervention strategy,” says Strickland. “As kids get better in the arts, their retention improves. We graduated 99 percent of our kids last year. We average 90 percent, and a lot of these students go on to college. I think this is a very powerful way of adding value to what these kids need to have to be successful.”

    Once out of school, arts program alumni can continue on with Manchester Bidwell via vocational training (for ages 18 and up). By talking to industry leaders to determine their workforce and skills training needs, they have been able to make these programs incredibly effective.

    According to Strickland, between 75 and 85 percent of Manchester Bidwell’s vocational students go to work every year in the industries in which they were trained. These numbers are consistent across Manchester Bidwell’s eight affiliate sites.

    Those affiliates operate in cities across the United States and follow the same model as the one in Pittsburgh. Five more sites are in the works and should be online in the next 18 months. Strickland’s goal is to eventually have 100 centers throughout the country.

    While Strickland has reason to be proud of the programs he has built, he remains steadfastly humble. To him, the impactful work of Manchester Bidwell is a relatively simple matter.

    “I decided I wanted to get involved with the arts in the community and that’s how this started,” he says. “This has really been a 40-year story of one neighborhood.”

    See the original story here.

  8. My Art Story by Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts

    In collaboration with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts looks at the arts and culture of Pennsylvania, with a special look at the many affiliates of Manchester Bidwell Corporation.


    See the video here!

  9. Bill Strickland to speak at “Israeli Arabs and Jews: A Shared Society,” a presentation by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh

    The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh will hold a program of four panelists that will present “Israeli Arabs and Jews: A Shared Society,” on Sunday, April 3 from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Rodef Shalom Congregation, 4905 Fifth Ave. The panelists will present constructive approaches to help all members of Israeli society progress together. The presentation is free and open to the community.

    Panelists will include American and Israeli leaders with collective experience in education, government and the nonprofit sector: Amnon Be’eri-Sulitzeanu, Dalia Fadila, Michal Steinman and Pittsburgh native Bill Strickland.

    Amnon Be’eri-Sulitzeanu is co-executive director of The Abraham Fund Initiatives, an Israel-based nonprofit that promotes coexistence and equality among Israel’s Jewish and Arab Palestinian citizens.

    Dalia Fadila, Ph.D., was the first female dean of an Islamic college in Israel. She is the current president of Al-Qasemi Engineering and Science College and past provost of Al-Qasemi Teacher Training College. Both colleges are near Haifa, Israel. Fadila is the founder of Q Schools, private schools for teaching English and personal empowerment. Q Schools offer special outreach to women as future educators, entrepreneurs and leaders. She is a fellow at the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel and participates in other national and international forums dealing with education and Israel’s Arab minority.

    Michal Steinman is the executive director of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues (IATF) in New York. The task force is a coalition of American Jewish organizations dedicated to learning about and raising awareness of Israel’s Arab citizens.

    Steinman joined the IATF after directing the Bedouin Sheep Growers Project, which involved working with senior government officials to create incentives for Bedouin farmers to organize.

    William “Bill” Strickland, Ph.D., is president and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation. While attending college, in 1968, Strickland founded Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild (MCG) to bring arts education and mentorship to inner-city youth in his neighborhood, Pittsburgh’s North Side. He later established Bidwell Training Center, which offers nationally accredited programs ranging from horticulture to medical technology; MCG Jazz, a venue for music performance and teaching; and the Drew Mathieson Center for Horticultural and Agricultural Technology. Strickland applied a vision of mentorship, education, and beauty to create educational environments similar to MCG outside Pittsburgh, through the National Center for Arts & Technology. Currently, center-affiliated programs operate in eight cities. In 2010, he was appointed to President Barack Obama’s White House Council for Community Solutions.

    Attendees are encouraged to continue the discussion during a dessert reception following the program. Dietary laws will be observed. Registration is requested; visit the online registration form at Contact Eric Probola at 412-992-5247 or for more information or to submit questions to panelists in advance.

    Read more: The Jewish Chronicle – Metro Briefs March 17

  10. Bill Strickland: The Hope Maker

    A social-enterprise entrepreneur from Pittsburgh, with a remarkable record of success and a resume full of honors, is about to test his brand of optimism in the Middle East. Can William Strickland Jr. and his partners create hope and opportunity for Arabs and Jews?

    See the article from Pitt Magazine by Pamela Goldsmith, with photos by Scott Goldsmith, here:

    The Hope Maker.