Not long ago, a picture of the First Lady Michelle Obama photographed in the garden of the White House, wearing gardening gloves, among tufts of salad, zucchini and carrots, has been around the world. Since then, the spread of gardens, and especially of urban gardens has exploded everywhere.
Perhaps not everyone knows that, but already more than 40 years ago, the vacant lands in New York are slowly and inexorably transformed into urban gardens. Each type of fruit and vegetables are grown among the skyscrapers of one of the most dense and vertical metropolis in the world.
Vibrant civic spaces where are grown colorful plants of fruits and vegetables, also used as outdoor classrooms by students, but especially as meeting places for communities.
The non-profit association Grown NYC, with his forty years of hard work, it’s one of the main responsible for the explosion of “community gardens” in the Big Apple, but also for the revival of agriculture, through the farmers’ markets, and for educational activities.
Lenny Librizzi, New York, ph. Simone Riccardi
Lenny Librizzi, director of the Open Space Greening of GrownNYC, greeted me in his room located by a building of the City of New York on Chamber street.
The association, which now employs 65 people, is mainly supported by fund-raising and was born in 1970 during the raise of enthusiasm that inspired the first Earth Day.
Six years after the foundation, GrownNYC created the first Farmers’ markets in NYC with the dual mission of promoting regional agriculture, providing small farms the opportunity to sell their locally produced products directly to citizens.
This adventure, began over 40 years ago, with 12 farmers in a parking lot in Manhattan, after that, it has grown to become the largest network of urban farmers in the United States, with more than 60 markets each week, distributed in various parts of the city, 230 family farms and over 30,000 acres of farmland.
This unique relationship between farmers and city dwellers has enhanced the regional agriculture, has revitalized rural communities and urban spaces, improved the health of consumers, encouraged the diversity of cultures, created information for residents and school students regarding the importance of the agricultural sector improving their life quality.
“Everything is around the terms Green and Grown“, Lenny tells me with enthusiasm “Our number one goal is to help people turn New York into the most sustainable and livable city in the world!”
Lenny tells me also about “Riverpark“, an innovative combination of restaurant and farm in the center of Manhattan (between the east 29th and the 1st street). The giant green vegetable garden on the roof, built with 7,000 boxes containing transportable earth and plants of all kinds, from tomatoes to basil, ensures the organic menu, always fresh and zero miles, just below the restaurant. This has turned the venue in one of the most trendy gastronomic destinations of Manhattan.
Only at the end we discover that Lenny has Italian origins and he loves spending his holidays in our country. Another common point, in addition to “green“, with the project ViaggiVerdi!
– Association Grown NYC: http://www.grownyc.org/
– Map NYC Oasis: http://www.oasisnyc.net/map.aspx
– Restaurant & urban garden Riverpark: http://www.riverparknyc.com/default.htm
Cover photo: High Line, New York City, ph. Silvia Ombellini