Growing the Urban Farm

Urban agriculture is growing rapidly in cities across America. Vacant lots, abandoned green spaces, and urban rooftops are being transformed into productive farms that provide fresh produce and opportunities for healthy activity, income, and many other benefits for urban families. Can the unprecedented growth of urban agriculture continue? Can urban farms produce enough food to feed large numbers of city residents? What new policies must be adopted to improve and promote urban agriculture? Will rooftop and vertical gardening systems increase the productivity of urban farms? What techniques can we employ to be better growers? What benefits beyond food production does urban agriculture provide to the community? Growing the Urban Farm will feature four distinguished speakers who will address these critical questions and offer inspiration to experienced and aspiring urban farmers alike.

This symposium is presented by Bronx Green-Up, NYBG's steadfast community gardening program, which has been instrumental in the Bronx for the last 27 years.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015; 6 p.m.–8 p.m.

Ross Hall
The New York Botanical Garden

About the Speaker

Mchezaji "Che" Axum (Agronomist) is the Director of the Center for Urban Agriculture and Gardening Education in the College of Agriculture Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES) at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC). Mr. Axum leads a team of researchers at the Muirkirk Research Farm in Beltsville, MD and oversees UDC's Master Gardening, Specialty and Ethnic Crops, and Urban Forestry programs. He has worked for the United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Plant Sciences Institute (USDA-ARS-PSI) for 20 years, taught middle school science, and has worked as a successful farmer and sustainable farming consultant. He is a graduate of the College of Agronomy, now named the College of Natural Resource Management, at the University of Maryland and is a Certified State of Maryland Nutrient Management Consultant. Che serves on the board of the Harry Hughes Center for Agroecology and is a member of the American Agronomy Society/ASA, the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), and the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA).


About the Speaker

Nevin Cohen is an Associate Professor at the CUNY School of Public Health, and a faculty fellow of the New York City Food Policy Center at Hunter College. Dr. Cohen's research focuses on the development of urban food policy, the use of urban space for food production, social justice and food, and urban planning for healthy, ecologically sound urban food systems. His current research examines the potential for cities to transform the food system through policies that support healthy and sustainable everyday food practices, including comparative research on food system governance and everyday food practices in New York and Amsterdam. Dr. Cohen is co-author of a forthcoming book analyzing urban agriculture projects that focus on social justice goals (Beyond the Kale: Urban Agriculture and Social Justice Activism in New York City, The University of Georgia Press), has been involved in food policy development in New York City, and co-authored a study to support and strengthen New York City's urban agriculture system ("Five Borough Farm: seeding the future of urban agriculture in New York City," Design Trust for Public Space). Cohen has a Ph.D. in Urban Planning and Policy Development from Rutgers University, a Masters in City and Regional Planning from Berkeley, and a BA from Cornell.


About the Speaker

Annie Novak is Manager of the Edible Academy (nee: Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden) at the New York Botanical Garden; founder and director of Growing Chefs, field-to-fork food education program; and co-founder and farmer of Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, in partnership with Goode Green and Broadway Stages. Annie has worked with GrowNYC and Greenmarket, Slow Food USA, and Just Food advocating and growing urban agriculture. Among other publications, Annie's work in agriculture has been featured in New York Magazine, Edible Brooklyn, and the Martha Stewart Show; online at Grist, the Huffington Post, and on the Cooking Channel. A passionate educator, Annie teaches locally & nationally, and has spoken at conferences around the country and internationally on the connections between people, food, and ecology, and the benefits of urban agriculture. In 2012, Annie was recognized by the Audubon Society's Women in Conservation Program for her work in New York City.


About the Speaker

Karen Washington has lived in New York City all her life and has been a resident of the Bronx for over 26 years. Since 1985 Karen has been a community activist, striving to make New York City a better place to live. As a community gardener and Board Member of the New York Botanical Garden, Karen has worked with Bronx neighborhoods to turn empty lots into community gardens. As a member of La Familia Verde Garden Coalition, she helped launch a City Farms Market, bringing fresh vegetables to her neighbors. Karen is a Just Food board member and trainer, leading workshops on food growing and food justice. Karen is a board member and former president of the New York City Community Garden Coalition, a group that was founded to protect and preserve community gardens. She co-founded Black Urban Growers (BUGS), an organization of volunteers committed to building networks and support for growers in both urban and rural settings, and has been key to Farm School NYC, whose mission is to train NYC residents in urban agriculture. In 2012, Ebony magazine voted her one of the 100 most influential African Americans, and in 2014 she received the James Beard Leadership Award. Professionally, Karen had been a physical therapist for 37 years, balancing her professional life with community service. Since retiring in April 2014, she is pursuing her passion for farming full-time at the Rise and Root Farm.


Mobilizing Citizens for Studying, Conserving, and Appreciating Native Plants in New York

David Werier
New York Flora Association
Recent Past-President

Werier will explore various ways that New Yorkers are engaging with and becoming interested in native plants, including an overview of the organizations and institutions that teach about and inspire interest in native plants. These educational and inspirational roles have been shifting from higher-education institutions to botanical and native plant societies, but also to more "under-the-radar" groups, such as native plant nurseries, nature centers, botanical gardens, primitive skills organizations, and wild and medicinal plant schools. This presentation will also include an examination of both "traditional" and up-and-coming trends related to inspiring citizens about native plants.

About the Speaker:
David Werier is a botanist who has his own consulting business based out of the Ithaca, New York area. His botanical interests focus on understanding the vascular plants of eastern North America (primarily New York State) through field work in conjunction with herbarium and literature research. His work often centers on conservation of the flora of this region. He has an undergraduate degree in Biology from the University of Buffalo and decades of self-inspired studying and learning about the regional flora. He is involved in many of the botanical and native plant societies in New York, having been a founding member of the Finger Lakes Native Plant Society and recent past-President of the New York Flora Association. He has consulted on botanical conservation-oriented projects for many governmental and private conservation organizations in New York. Currently, David is revising the New York State vascular plant checklist and is co-author of the New York Flora Association's New York Flora Atlas.


The Promise of Native Plants and their Communities for Restoring Degraded Landscapes and Creating Sustainable Green Systems

Donald Leopold
State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF),
Department of Environmental and Forest Biology
Chair and Distinguished Teaching Professor

All plant species have ecological functions. But native plant species have unique relationships with other native species of organisms (e.g., birds, insects, fungi, bryophytes) and are a part of our natural heritage. Collectively, these native plant species in natural communities can be sustained with minimal management while not creating a less functional monoculture that typically results from non-native plant species, especially those deemed "invasive." Leopold will present a summary of the ecology of native species in natural plant communities and their function. The information presented will be applicable to home gardens as well as urban projects and larger-scale restoration of degraded industrial landscapes.

About the Speaker:
Donald J. Leopold earned his Ph.D. in forest ecology from Purdue University in 1984, his M.S.F. in forest ecology from the University of Kentucky in 1981, and B.S. in ornamental horticulture/nursery management from the University of Kentucky in 1978. He is a Distinguished Teaching Professor and Chair in the Department of Environmental and Forest Biology at SUNY-ESF. Don has published over 60 journal papers, six books, and many additional publications, all generally about topics in forest and wetland ecology, and native plants. Don's fifth book, Native Plants of the Northeast: A Guide for Gardening and Conservation (2005, Timber Press), is a guide to over 700 native trees, shrubs, vines, graminoids, wildflowers, and ferns that are valuable for garden and restoration plantings. In August 2006, this book received the Garden Writers Association Silver Media Award for excellence in horticultural writings. In August 2009, Don received the NYS Nursery and Landscape Association George L. Good Gold Medal of Horticulture Award for outstanding contributions to horticulture in New York State. His research focuses on examining drivers of diversity at micro to macro scales, and applying ecological principles from natural communities to the development of sustainable green systems and restoring badly degraded landscapes.


The Best Way Forward for Plant Conservation

Mary Klein
President & CEO

Plant conservation efforts are at a crossroads. There is renewed interest in addressing the imbalance in funding for plant conservation compared to other wildlife. The botanic community can help catalyze this change by taking three key steps illustrated at this summit: 1) coming together in support of a broadly accepted taxonomy to focus conservation efforts; 2) highlighting the links between native plants, ecosystem function, and human health; and 3) engaging citizen scientists in monitoring plants to guide planning and restoration actions. Taken together, these three steps create a powerful basis for growing a new, native plant conservation movement.

About the Speaker:
Mary Klein, President and CEO of NatureServe, has been an active proponent for the conservation of species and ecosystems for nearly 30 years. She leads an international network of more than 1,000 conservation professionals who provide the scientific basis for effective conservation action—responding to more than six million information inquiries each year. In this role, Klein guides the identification, mapping, and analysis of species and ecosystems. This knowledge is used by governments, companies, and conservation organizations to direct limited resources towards the conservation of the Earth's most unique and imperiled places. In addition to her work at NatureServe, Klein serves on the Global Biodiversity Information Facility Governing Board, the IUCN Red List Partnership, the Wildlife Habitat Council Board of Directors, the External Advisory Board for the National Science Foundation's iDigBio specimen digitization initiative, University of Florida's Advisory Council for the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, the U.S. National Advisory Committee for the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), and the Teaming With Wildlife Committee of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, among others. She earned her M.S. in Wildlife Biology from the University of Florida, and holds a B.S. in Environmental Science from Lehigh University.