Dianne spent her first 16 years living in the vibrant East Africa countries of Tanzania and Kenya, before coming to the United States to finish high school and get a college degree in Sociology. She then spent 20 years raising a family, during which she grew some of their food in backyard gardens, learned to can and freeze produce purchased from farmers markets or picked herself in pick-your-own farm fields, and cooked most of their meals from scratch using the “More With Less” cookbook and philosophy.
Upon moving to Pittsburgh, Dianne enrolled in the Masters in Food Studies course at Chatham University, where she learned how the global food system works, with a focus on markets and marketing and a particular interest in underserved urban communities. She completed internships at Penns Corner Farm Alliance (a specialized local food hub), Paragon Foods (a Pittsburgh-based produce wholesale company), and a stint at Matthew’s Family Farm (where she learned first-hand the realities of vegetable farming and marketing throughout a growing season). She wrote her thesis on “Food in Hazelwood: Making the Case for Fresh Produce in a Low-Income, Urban Community.” As part of her research, she got involved with the Fishes and Loaves Buying Club in Hazelwood, an on-going effort to bring healthy, fresh food into the community, and dreamed of expanding this mission by opening a fruit and vegetable business.
In July of 2014, she bought an old hay wagon and, with the help of builder Joni James, converted it into a farm stand, which she parked on the side of Second Avenue on vacant land rented from the URA. Stocked with over 30 varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables, the stand attracted immediate attention from community residents and daily commuters. Because it is the only source of fresh food in Hazelwood, Dianne stocks staples like oranges, lemons, onions and potatoes, but also partners with local farmers for in-season, locally-grown specialties like tomatoes, corn, blueberries and apples. Whatever is available locally is purchased from local growers, either directly or through Paragon Foods, which also sources locally throughout the growing season.