Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Horticultural Society of New York (The Hort) Hosts Its 4th Annual Urban Agriculture Conference (UAC)

The UAC will offer hands-on demos at several sites including (pictured) Randall's Island Urban Farm, a 3,000 square foot urban farm created through GrowNYC and the Randall's Island Park Alliance that offers environmental education and nutritional learning
Double-down for homegrown. For two blissful, farm-fueled days – and evenings -- Thursday, May 29 and Friday, May 30 -- The Horticultural Society of New York (The Hort) and attendees will travel to working urban farms in Manhattan and Queens for its fourth annual Urban Agricultural Conference (UAC), promising to break records for attendance.
The program will focus on urban farming as a viable and successful business venture and an additional, augmented food source for urban dwellers.

The Urban Ag Conference will feature hands-on demonstrations on all aspects of urban farming from bee pollination to wicking beds, cover crops, youth empowerment and aquaponics, at various sites including, Smiling Hogshead Ranch in Long Island City, Battery Urban Farm at Battery Park, Randall’s Island Urban Farm and Wards Island Farm on Randall’s Island, and Boswyck Farms and Build it Green! in Astoria.

The conference will also include a film on European urban and organic farming, along with a panel discussion led by Billy Polansky, general manager, Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture.

“Today, urban agriculture isn’t the little known entity it was when we launched the conference in 2010,” says The Hort’s Director of Horticulture and Public Programs George Pisegna. “This year, we are focusing on educating the food industry, consumers, environmentalists, and many others on ways to make urban agriculture succeed as a viable business,” Pisegna explained.
It is wouldn’t be wrong to note that the burgeoning commitment to urban agriculture here in Gotham – and across the country -- has been ignited by The Hort, its leadership, and networking community support.

The UAC opens May 29th at Mombucha’s Magic City, a kombucha-maker’s facility in Greenpoint, with a screening of Guerilla Cycling: Growing on a Bike, a short film by urban grower Tom Boyden from F.H. King & University of Wisconsin Madison Horticulture Department. The film chronicles Boyden’s 5,000-mile bike journey through organic and urban farms in western and central Europe.  Guests will enjoy locally sourced food and cocktails.

The next day (Friday, May 30th), at NYU’s Kimmel Center (Rosenthal Pavilion, Washington Square), boasts a full day of robust Urban Ag content, kicking off with keynote speaker, Polansky.
Following Polansky, moderator Adam Saunders, public outreach coordinator, Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture will lead a discussion: The Business of Farming: Organizational Structures & Operations, focused on the tools needed to support successful urban agriculture ventures from incorporation as a non-profit, land access, paid labor and volunteers, programming, design in urban food systems, as well as the ways urban dwellers can support viable food economies.
Panelists are Kelsey Ripper, Equal Justice Works Fellow, from the Lawyers Alliance for New York; Community Food Lab’s Erin White, principal; Feedback Farms’ co-founder Thomas Hallaran, and Daron ‘Farmer D’ Joffe of Farmer D Organics.
In the afternoon (1:30 to 5:30 pm), participants will choose a workshop track offering hands-on, on-site demonstrations.  Attendees choose one of five locations:

1. At Smiling Hogshead Ranch in Long Island City, they will learn how Container Gardening can develop alternative gardenscapes to grow abundant, healthy food in limited spaces.  

2. At Build it Green! in Astoria, Composting & Soil Management will offer a first-hand view of small and large scale composting operations and techniques that maximize the complex ecosystem underneath crops. 
Riverpark Farm
3. Outdoor classrooms on Farm Education at Battery Urban Farm in Battery Park will show how to practice food sovereignty and make healthier choices.  
Battery Urban Farm

4. Farm Practices will demonstrate varied techniques from chickens to bees, mushrooms to propagation, to establish balanced farms at Randall’s Island Urban Farm and Ward’s Island Farm.  

5. Hydro & Aquaponics at Boswyck Farms in Astoria will show how alternative designs; new technology and sustainable systems support high productivity.  
Boswyck Farms

Demonstrations will be led by known professionals including Zachary Pickens of Riverpark Farm; Thomas Hallaran and Clare Sullivan, Feedback Farms; Jonathan Wilson, Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden; Gil Lopez, Smiling Hogshead Ranch; Erik Martig, Build It Green! Andrew Blancero, NYC Compost Project on Staten Island; David Vigil and Cameal Tapper, East NY Farms!; Cara Chard, City Growers; Esther Gottesman and Perri Erlitz, Edible Schoolyard NYC; Anna Ellis, Camilla Hammer, and Josie Johnson, Battery Urban Farm; Nick Storrs, Randall’s Island Park Alliance; Lily Kesselman an Yanet Rojas, City Chicken Project at Just Food; Andrew Coté, Silvermine Apiary; Andrew Casner, Project EATs; and Lee Mandell, Boswyck Farms.

Further, conference attendees have the rare opportunity to visit these examples of urban farming and see that farming in town is not only doable but vital – and doable.
A bus will be provided to the Randall's Island demo.  The Hort staff will provide MetroCards to the attendees for the other four locations to amplify how a quick subway ride will transport you to a bucolic farm right in the heart of New York!

The closing reception will allow for a discussion of the day’s events and a preview of the future over complimentary beverages from 6 to 9 pm at Good Co. in Williamsburg.
For a complete agenda, visit

About The Hort
The mission of the Horticultural Society of New York (The Hort) is to sustain the vital connection between people and plants. Social service and public programs educate and inspire, growing a broad community that values horticulture for the many benefits it brings to our environment, our neighborhoods, and our lives.

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