Agriculture at NYU: The Urban Farm Lab on Campus We Should Know About

On the corner of Houston St. and Wooster, the University Farm Lab flourishes in a vision of greenery and vegetation. The lab came about after a 10 year effort to establish it on campus by Steinhardt Food Studies professors Jennifer Berg and Amy Bentley.

The patch is tended to by students in the Introduction to Urban Agriculture course — taught by professor Melissa Metrick — as well as the faculty residents of 110 Silver Towers, which the farm grows on the south side of.

 

Getting it to be a permanent fixture in the city was no simple feat as issues over permits and building construction inhibited the process. But now the farm has obtained Landmark status.

“We actually had the farm about two or three years ago, but through Landmarks we didn’t have a permanent licensing for the farm,” Metrick said. She has been teaching the course in the farm lab for two years. “We lost the permit and then just recently we got a permit that is going to enable us to have a farm here for a long time, which is very exciting.”

Although primarily run by the students and staff in the Food Studies department, Metrick emphasizes that any NYU student or faculty can come by and volunteer to help out.

“We’re talking about trying to create a calendar to help more people learn about it and find times to volunteer,” said Lila Rimalovski, a junior in Gallatin concentrating in Urban Sustainability and Environmental Justice. She is one of Metrick’s students. “Because a lot of people just don’t know that it’s an option. But there’s help needed everyday with watering, or pruning, with weeding.”

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Rimalovski (foreground) and Matrick (background) pruning — the triming of dead or overgrown stems and branches — a tomato plant in the farm.

For students who are interested, Metrick strongly recommends taking the course, which has a very small class size. There are two sections in the fall, but the spring will see three sections of the class become available.

Not only do students get the chance to take care of the five different varieties of basil found in the herb bed, they also discuss the history and social context surrounding urban farming.

“I come to urban farming with this perspective of sustainability and social impact,” Rimalovski said. “Time and time again we learn how urban farming is part of the solution for the issues we’re learning about. I’m trying to soak up as much of this as I can so I can learn how to replicate it and tell other people why urban farming is important.”

Fennel, rosemary, radishes, peppers — sweet along with cayenne — and corn are all found throughout the farm and a surplus of produce is something those who tend the farm regularly run into.

For now, produce goes to Nutrition and Food Studies classes, volunteers, faculty residents and friends of students. Metrick says donations to local organizations isn’t in action at the moment and expressed a sentiment that sums up where the farm lab stands at the current time.

“We’re still figuring it out, it’s still early.”

 

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