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The After-Graduation Series: Visiting the Urban Farm at the Battery in New York City

Taking up about an acre of Battery Park in Manhattan is not another subway entrance, skyscraper, or ferry building. It’s an urban farm. Founded by the Battery Park Conservancy, the farm serves as an educational resource for the community of Manhattan. Community groups and schools in the area have plots at the farm to grow whatever vegetables they desire. Students, ranging from elementary to high school, come on a weekly basis to farm, while learning valuable science skills. For instance, a plant science course comes to the garden from a local high school each week to learn about plant growth, soil health, and how plants grow in cycle together.

I couldn’t get over what a visual oxymoron this farm was—it’s right next to the Staten Island Ferry Building and also positioned at the bottom of the financial district of the city. It’s not only visually thought-provoking–you can feel the subway underneath every few minutes (which reminded me a bit of farming in Antigua, where you can occasionally feel the nearby active volcano).

Emily-Kate with Camilla at the Urban Farm at the Battery

I made my way to the farm because the farm manager, Camilla Hammer, is Emily-Kate’s good friend from school. Camilla majored in a combination of Environmental Studies and Philosophy at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Studies. After graduation, she was drawn to farming and spent a few months farming at a biodynamic farm in northern California. Camilla moved back to New York City after her apprenticeship at this farm and shortly after began working at the Urban Farm at the Battery.

This past Saturday (after one of the hottest days on record for July in NYC), Emily-Kate and I received a personal tour of the fruits of her labors (very literally) at the farm. In addition to providing plots for community groups and schools, there are also a few plots for the farm itself. This is where Camilla grows (with the help of interns) potatoes, tomatoes, corn, squash, flax seed (which I’d never seen before), pumpkins, and sunflowers among other plants.

Delicious tomatoes from the Urban Farm at the Battery

It’s amazing to hear Camilla talk about all the work it takes to turn a grass plot into a farm—and also amazing to see how productive it is only in its first season of growth. In response to my question about pests, Camilla replied that the predominant ones are humans and rats. She also mentioned that she’d “rather someone steal vegetables than, you know, eat a cheeseburger.”

Read other posts by Laura in both our “Life of an Environmental Studies Student” and “The ‘After’ Life of an Environmental Studies Student” series.

Laura Stephenson is a recent environmental science graduate from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, focusing in environmental and community health. She is currently studying Spanish in Antigua, Guatemala. Laura writes the “After” Life of an Environmental Studies Student series, telling stories of the activities and endeavors of environmental science and studies students after graduation.

Posted on: September 13, 2011, 9:30 am Category: The "After" Life of an Environmental Studies Student Tagged with: ,

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