Industry Insight: An Introduction to NYC Urban Farming
Having split up my childhood between Puerto Rico, Miami, and New Jersey, my understanding of landscaping was confused for some time. The land and climate were vastly different but I felt suited to all of them. In Puerto Rico we were surrounded by vegetation that I now know as “indoor tropicals”, but which grew to impressive sizes around our home; in Miami I encountered heavily mowed lawns and a perspective on laborers that I’ve never quite evaded; in New Jersey I grew enamored with a very impressive Forthysia bush and a forested fern landscape (Forthysia being the only latin plant name I knew for quite some time). All of theses landscapes were of course accompanied by a family that valued food, and a mom who managed to create a space where orchids could thrive. That being said, I was blissfully unaware of all of it. My connection to food production and landscaping was limited to cooking dinners at home, and a few failed attempts at some carrot and strawberry production.
Farming in Brooklyn Grange
As a five year Brooklyn Grange employee heavily invested in “urban landscaping” and all that this encompasses, I can’t imagine contributing to our city in any other way. As Director of Brooklyn Grange’s Design/Build arm, I have seen various sides of the company as farm apprentice, maintenance gardener, and project manager. When I came to New York to pursue lofty dreams of freelance illustration and education, I had no knowledge of the work occurring on our city’s roofs. By the time Brooklyn Grange had built its second rooftop farm, I stumbled into the Brooklyn Navy Yard looking to gain more vegetable production knowledge to be incorporated into education curriculum. After one year of seeding, harvesting, and hustling I was hooked. As the current Director of our landscaping division, I oversee a team that manages all of our off site client based projects, from green roof construction, to indoor plant installations, to the maintenance of various sites across our city. I work with an amazing team of leaders and crew members that somehow get through a growing season with smiles intact.
As a New Yorker, your excitement and commitment to our developing landscape is crucial to the city’s growth and progress. In Industry Insight, I hope to shed some light on lessons learned while greening our urban landscape as Brooklyn Grange’s Director of Design/Build. My hope in doing so is to help all urbanites get a jump start on their gardens, big or small.
Photo Credit – ©Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm – Vice 2016