Urban Farm Lab celebrates first harvest

Shawn Paik for WSN

Bustling cities like New York City can sometimes seem almost colorless, but the NYU Urban Farm Lab is giving the city a spot of bright green to contrast with the grays of the surrounding concrete jungle.

Located on a green plot of land on the Houston Street side of  the University Village Silver Towers, the NYU Urban Farm celebrated its first Harvest Day on Sept. 26, welcoming both NYU students and local community members to pick fresh produce planted and grown by NYU students over the summer.

“So far we have sowed seeds in trays … and once the roots systems are established, we can transfer them back into the garden,” food studies graduate student Rachel Gill said.

“It’s a trip to be planting vegetables next to taxi cabs,” Gill said, gesturing toward the bustling street just on the other side of the farm’s fence.


The farm project was initially proposed in 2010 by Daniel Bowman Simon, who was then an NYU Wagner Urban Planning student.  He began a petition drive as his 2010 Clinton Global Initiative University Commitment, and amassed hundreds of signatures from fellow NYU students. The project faced many extraordinary challenges in obtaining approval. But eventually things began to move forward.

“Convincing the Landmark Commission that this is prettier than a lawn was the hardest part of the project,” NYU food studies professor Jennifer Berg said.

Food studies visiting scholar Matthew Hoffman said the project was worth the work.

“It is vitally important to have a well-run garden at NYU, one that people can connect with and see how it works, precisely because it is something that many people in that neighborhood have so little connection with or appreciation for,” Hoffman said.

In an effort to include the local community, the farm is not limited to students, but has reserved a few beds for both Silver Tower residents and a local preschool.

“We want to welcome the whole NYU community to come in and dig some beds and eat some tomatoes,” Berg said during the harvest, as a string of preschool students wound their way between the vegetables.

As for the farm’s future development, Hoffman stated that he would like to see the space become a center for students with common agricultural interests.

“[One] of my hopes is that the farm can serve as a networking hub for students that are interested in urban agriculture of all kinds,” Hoffman said. “From the start I envisioned the farm as a place to learn biointensive gardening but also as a point of contact for students who want to connect with other urban farms around the city and outside of it.”

With one successful harvest behind them, students have already begun preparations for the winter crops and welcome the community to take part in the next season of the NYU Urban Farm. Classes in Steinhardt’s food studies program will work more with the farm, as crops are planted for the fall and winter.


A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Sept. 30 print edition. Alex Pastron is a contributing writer. Email her at [email protected] 




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