Interview #70: Maria Graziani

Maria Graziani

Meet urban farming pioneer Maria Graziani. 

Maria is founding partner at Healcrest Urban Farm in Garfield. She turned several vacant lots into a functioning herb and fruit farm. You may recognize her as she is often at different community events selling teas made from herbs from her farm. A new product that they will soon be offering is Healcrest teapops—popsicles made from tea and fresh fruit. Yum! 

It was such a treat to spend a morning with Maria. She's calm, confident, and delightful! After sharing some tea at Voluto, we drove up to Healcrest farm and Maria gave me a tour. They have several different beds for herbs, vegetables, grape arbors, fruit trees, and beehouses. 

It happened to be an absolutely freezing day, so we took refuge in the farm greenhouse. 

Maria Healcrest Greenhouse

I'm looking forward to visiting the farm again in the springtime! Below are a few pictures of what we have to look forward to: 

Grape Arbor Healcrest Farmlavendar greenhouse healcrest farm

The warm weather will be here before we know it.

Maria mentioned Healcrest will be hosting some volunteer days so be on the lookout for those opportunities to experience this beauty first hand. 

In the meantime, grab a warm mug of tea and enjoy Maria's Q&A.

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Name: Maria Graziani

Job title: Partner, Healcrest Urban Farm + Independent Nonprofit/Small Business Consultant

Twitter: @HealcrestUFarm

Blog: Healcrest Blog

Neighborhood you live in: Garfield

Coffee Shop Drink of Choice: Triple shot nonfat latte

Current Shampoo Preference: Dr. Bronners Citrus

Why do you choose Pittsburgh as your home?
Pittsburgh is a big city that still holds an ease to living—green landscape, under-populated and affordable.

Who do you spend your time with?
My three-year-old son. The other day he asked me to read his thoughts - so I did and then he read mine! He reminds me to have faith in the divine mystery.

What are your favorite aspects of your job?
I believe in myself that I am capable, smart and can take a challenge in learning and doing anything I put my mind to - I have never had a "boss" that believed that in me. So working for myself to build a successful business and working as an independent consultant for other businesses encourages me to continuing believing in the power & ability of self and I feel free and successful and empowered everyday.

Do you have a soul food?
Ethiopian & Thai vegetarian dishes of any kind! Berbere spice and thai curry dishes warm me body and soul!

What are some of your recent personal goals?

1. To make this the 1st year Healcrest generates enough net profit to pay out its partners.

2. To successfully and if possible, happily, complete a home renovation that will be my first owned home (though I own garden plots!)

3. To keep up and increase my health routine - organic, local foods cooked in healthy ways, exercise and yoga daily and laughing.

4. Be present with my friends and family more and more specifically to invite people over more to share life together!

What are your favorite Pittsburgh restaurants?

1. Thai Gourmet - I love Thai restaurants. Almost always family-owned and operated, so informal yet quality and oh so delicious.

2. Verde - the bar staff is so social and the food is excellent - its sort of my "meeting a friend" go-to place.

3. Tana Ethiopian - I may have been Ethiopian in another life. I LOVE Ethiopian culture and food. The owner Seifu is a Pittsburgh gem, a hard working business owner and a friend. I even had my baby shower there in order to hook my friends/family onto their amazing cuisine + the afternoon coffee ceremony - that includes, incense burning, fresh roasted beans and good company - you shouldn't pass that up!

Describe your ideal day.
Waking up to a short yoga session in the kitchen while my espresso machine warms up. An hour by myself drinking coffee and checking emails. My son wakes up all huggy and smiley as we ease into early morning routine. Off to school for him and an hour of jogging for me. Back home for shower and sit down with dark chocolate, tea and 4-5 hours of computer work on some days and in spring/summer, 2-3 hours of garden work, followed by 2-3 hours of computer work. Son picked up by 5:30, homemade dinner, relax outdoors in fresh warm air until sunset ends, then a movie and bedtime!

You see its only ideal spring-fall when weather is warm, then it starts sliding down the ideal scale! Lol! But I also would love a day where we woke up early for market and sold our entire days stock of teas and teapops and repeated that weekly!

What is the most memorable live show you have seen in Pittsburgh?
I have to create a disclosure statement first—I really suck as a Pittsburgher when it comes to live show attendance. We have so many amazing local and national acts that come here but being a single mom just makes catching a show regularly impossible. That said, I took myself to see Sweet Honey in the Rock a few years back at the Byham. The show fell on my birthday so it was a nice gift to self. I'm a fan of soulful, spiritual, politically-socially driven music of many varieties including roots reggae, gospel and kirtan music.

What do you think Pittsburgh will be like in ten years? What do you love most about the city?
I'm pretty sure "liveability" and population increases are opposites, so as we continue to market ourselves as one of the most livable cities, we strive to increase population to hit that critical mass needed to drive commerce and capital. If our trend continues, well livability criteria decrease: higher costs of living, less open space, traffic. But this will also mean more customers to my business, more residents developing and implementing new ideas, shops, restaurants, resources to the city. I am hoping that we all love our livability so very much that we will strive to ensure its presence even as population increases. For example, neighborhood density limits, revising and enforcing zoning to keep tabs on business to residential ratios, neighborhoods protecting: the small business owner, the local park and playground and the environment. I also feel strongly that we build Pittsburgh now with a strong principal of equality amongst race, class, religion and sexual orientation. Without those principles what I love most about this city will diminish over time.