Digital Salad mixes art-making, technology, and farm education to produce interactive and edible learning experiences for classrooms, community spaces, and neighborhoods. Founded in 2010, the project is a collaboration between media artist Heather Mallak and urban farmer Tara Rockacy of Churchview Farm with local chef Kate Romane of e2 preparing fresh fare. Rooted in Pittsburgh, PA, the project aims to make connections between the act of growing and the act of creating, and to discover the parallels between these two practices. Using the farm as a backdrop for exploration and inquiry, both Heather and Tara work to expand the boundaries of digital learning and artistic expression in both in- and out-of-school environments.
Heather Mallak is both an experienced multimedia artist and interactive media professional, which allows her to utilize both paint and pixels. She has been producing, curating, and participating in shows, performances, exhibits, and installations in and around Pittsburgh for more than a decade. Heather’s work–personally and professionally–is rooted in self-expression, collaboration, community engagement, and, of course, technology....more
Recently, Mallak joined Carlow University's School of Education as Experience Designer and Education Technology Specialist of the High Performance Learning program. Prior to Carlow University, she served as Manager of Emerging Technology for Girls, Math & Science Partnership at Carnegie Science Center, where she led Click! Spy School–an interactive, game-based tool that won the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning Competition in 2010. She regularly works with The Sprout Fund as Creativity and Technology Consultant for Spark, the Region’s Kids + Creativity Network. Additionally, Mallak has worked with and continues to collaborate with a diverse list of organizations such as the YWCA, Winchester Thurston, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, the Mattress Factory, and many others
Digital Salad, Mallak’s self-initiated project, grew organically out of her advocacy for connected learning experiences and her affinity for programs that incorporate STEAM concepts. For the past three years, Digital Salad has mixed art-making, technology and farm education to produce edible learning experiences for classrooms, community spaces, and neighborhoods.
Heather Mallak lives in lower Lawrenceville with her husband, son, and two cats. Her interest in pushing boundaries and working with unconventional ideas is evident with her current home remodeling project. She is overseeing the massive undertaking of attaching a 40-foot-long shipping container to her family’s 122 year-old brick home as a permanent addition. Mallak and her husband are documenting the entire project at LawrencevilleContainer.com.
Tara Rockacy is the owner and visionary of Churchview Farm, an organic farmette just south of Pittsburgh. In 2007, Tara reestablished the third-generation family farm and began offering a modest Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Today, in addition to yielding bountiful annual fruit and berry harvests and more than 250 varieties of heirloom produce, Churchview is home to pasture-raised laying hens and an apiary offering seasonal raw honey. With each season, the farm sees an increase in crops, animals, workers, and visitors ...more.
Tara emphasizes an open door policy at Churchview which allows volunteers, workshares, interns, and CSA members to take part in the farm’s activities. Through a partnership with Chatham University's Food Studies and School of Sustainability, Churchview welcomes an annual crop of graduate student interns whom Tara mentors. Churchview’s education and community outreach programs also include tours for schools and scout troops, backyard gardening classes at Phipp’s Garden Center, the edible art project Digital Salad, on-site workshops for children and families, and public events such as the annual honey harvest. Many local restaurants and chefs incorporate the farm’s produce into their menus, and in the summer of 2013 Churchview will begin offering a sunday evening chef dinner series on the farm, featuring a variety of talented local chefs. Tara maintains affiliations within the farming and food community including memberships to PASA, Women's Ag Network, and Slow Food USA.
Her plans for the farm are always evolving. In conjunction with increased education initiatives and on-site dining events, new additions to the farm in 2013 will include a greenhouse, hoop house, larger chicken coop, and other infrastructure expansion projects. In just five years, Tara’s dedication to sustainable growing and passion for farm education has made Churchview one of the most dynamic farms in the Pittsburgh area. To learn more about the farm, visit ChurchviewFarmPgh.com.
Chef Kate Romane got her start by learning classic Italian dishes on a basement stovetop in a car garage in Pittsburgh. She moved on to earn a culinary degree and has worked in the food industry for over 15 years. Her Highland Park restaurant, e2, has a family style farm-to-table approach with a European touch. As a chef and business owner dedicated to supporting a local economy, Kate specializes in building relationships around food through events and boutique dinners. e2pgh.com
Vegetables on a scanner (photo by Kristen Burns)
Slicing vegetables to scan (photo by Kristen Burns)
Kitchen boxes (photo by Kristen Burns)
Waiting for the printer (photo by Kristen Burns)