Urban farming is, at last, having its moment in the sun, and we hope it is a long one!
The benefits of growing food in urban environments, both to the environments themselves and to the people who inhabit them, are enormous. And the practice has deep roots in New York City.
Under the auspices of Organic Gardening, Gabriella Bass and I have spent the past year delving in to this moment, asking every day New Yorkers why and how they grow food in their own urban settings, and exploring the impact of these choices both on them and on their communities. There’s the story of an accidental backyard farm in Bushwick and a couple’s work to make it their own, of a school community gardener who gave city kids the courage to sit in the grass, of the farmer who found her roots not only in the soil but in the people around her, and of a computer-scientist-turned-food scientist who’s pioneering new methods in production. From pleasure to business to social change, their stories are diverse, and compelling.
Near the end of our conversation with Lee Mandell and Chloe Bass of Boswyck Farms, Chloe asked the elephant-in-the-room question: “Can New York City grow enough food to feed New York City?” The answer, of course, is no. (“We’ll never grow wheat in New York City!” Lee replied.) But–it can get pretty close.
Here are four examples of what urban farming is in New York today, and what it could be. Cheers to New York, its amazing people, and the inspiring things they’re doing!
Jeremy Sapienza & Luis Velazquez
Backyard farmers & Owners of Cafetería La Mejor
Jeremy and Luis’ resources for starting a backyard garden:
- Garden Plan Pro-–yes, there’s an app for that.
English and Philosophy Teacher & Head of the School Gardening Program
Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science and Engineering
Morningside Heights, Manhattan
Meredith’s resources for starting a school/community garden:
- Grow NYC, a hands-on non-profit which improves New York City’s quality of life through environmental programs that transform communities block by block and empower all New Yorkers to secure a clean and healthy environment for future generations.
- Grow to Learn/Garden to School Café Program, a program of GrowNYC, which connects school gardening and school lunch through seasonal harvest events and educational activities.
- Green Thumb provides programming and material support to over 500 community gardens in New York City. Workshops, which are the access point to supplies, are held every month of the year, covering gardening basics to more advanced farming and community organizing topics.
Founder and Farmer
Eagle Street Rooftop Farm
Annie’s resources for starting a rooftop farm:
- Good Green, a rooftop farm design and installation firm.
- Just Food, a non-profit organization that connects communities and local farms with the resources and support they need to make fresh, locally grown food accessible to all New Yorkers.
- Growing Chefs, Annie’s own non-profit, which connects food from field to fork in an effort to raise a generation of healthier eaters, more confident chefs, and more ecologically-minded citizens.
Lee Mandell & Chloe Bass
Founder & Chief Hydroponicist, and Communications & Outreach Specialist, respectively
Lee and Chloe’s resources for starting a hydroponic farm:
- Boswyck Farm’s own workshops on the nuts and bolts of hydroponic farming.
- Links to good books, good websites, and good suppliers on Lee and Chloe’s own Resources Page.