Sign up for our daily Newsletter and stay up to date with all the latest news!

Subscribe I am already a subscriber

You are using software which is blocking our advertisements (adblocker).

As we provide the news for free, we are relying on revenues from our banners. So please disable your adblocker and reload the page to continue using this site.

Click here for a guide on disabling your adblocker.

Sign up for our daily Newsletter and stay up to date with all the latest news!

Subscribe I am already a subscriber

US (NY): LaGuardia Community College students begin cultivation of new urban farm on campus

Sustainable Urban Agriculture students at LaGuardia Community College/CUNY have begun cultivation of the new LaGuardia Urban Farm and Research Laboratory on campus. On May 15, 10 students built raised garden beds and made plans for filling and planting the beds with seedlings that they have been growing in indoor labs. The farm is located behind the college's C-Building, on 47th Avenue between 29th and 30th Streets.

"The new LaGuardia Urban Farm and Research Laboratory will provide hands-on learning opportunities about traditional, regenerative, land-based farming," said Dr. Preethi Radhakrishnan, professor and director of LaGuardia's Environmental Sciences program with the Natural Sciences Department. "Our goal is to provide Sustainable Urban Agriculture students with experiential learning for three types of farming in three different urban ecosystems: rooftop, hydroponic, and land-based. This strategy allows them to learn ways to grow produce in different climates and systems. We maintain garden beds at nearby rooftop farms like Sky Farms, and students gain experience with hydroponic/vertical farming in our new Hydroponic Lab. The Urban Farm completes the triad."

By mid-June, the farm should be fully planted with tomatoes, cucumbers, flowers, and other fruits and vegetables. It has nearly two dozen raised garden beds, some made by LaGuardia students under the supervision of the college's Buildings and Grounds crew. Each bed is 8 feet by 4 feet and made from specially treated cedar. Three of the beds will be ADA-compliant, to enable differently abled students to get involved in the farming process. A local vendor, Nature-Based, is currently installing a High Tunnel Greenhouse—also known as a Hoop House Greenhouse—where produce will be grown year-round, enabling the growing season to be extended. The farm will also have a rainwater harvesting system, irrigation, a compost program, and a sensory garden for children in LaGuardia's on-campus daycare.

"Among its many benefits, the farm presents opportunities for students to get involved in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) initiatives, such as conducting controlled research on growth patterns of specialty crops and fostering a deep understanding of soil health and plant biology," said Dr. Radhakrishnan. "The farm will also serve as a research center for environmental science and food science faculty conducting research on soil microbiology and soil health as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing water quality, boosting crop yields, and creating nutrient-dense foods."

"We are preparing students for future jobs in agriculture," said Dr. Radhakrishnan. "The USDA has a huge labor shortage of people going into agriculture. Many of these jobs are located just outside New York City. In addition to jobs in farming or horticulture, positions include using drone technology to oversee farms, Ag-entertainment, climate mapping using GIS technology, and more. It's a very exciting time to work in agriculture."

The students involved in building garden beds and planting the farm are taking Sustainable Vegetable Production and Sustainable Urban Agriculture, two courses being taught this Spring semester by adjunct lecturer Maya Stansberry, an urban farmer, foodways educator, and chef.

One of the students in Professor Stansberry's courses is Snigdha Laxme, 18, who has a passion for nature, plants, farming, and working with her hands. The Bronx resident says she chose LaGuardia because it is one of the few colleges in New York City with an agricultural program. Snigdha comes from a family of farmers in her home country of Bangladesh. Her career goal is to become a farmer. "I've always enjoyed helping people, and nature needs help too. Today was my first time using a drill, and I loved it," Snigdha said of building a garden bed with classmates.

"In the future, we envision the farm becoming a place where the college and Western Queens communities can enjoy—a lovely setting for an outdoor lunch on a bench amongst a wild pollinator habitat, and a communal place for public events, farm to table meals, and workshops on topics like composting and botanical watercolor painting. We aim to create a green oasis to welcome all biodiversity," said Dr. Radhakrishnan.

The LaGuardia Urban Farm and Research Laboratory is supported in part by a $250,000 USDA Hispanic-Serving Institutions grant (no. 2021-77040-34874) awarded to Dr. Radhakrishnan in 2021 to support the development of LaGuardia's Sustainable Urban Agriculture track, one of the first of its kind in NYC. The grant supports students participating in a 3-week paid internship at local farms around NYC such as, Sky Farms, Brooklyn Grange, Connected Chef, Oko farms and Queens Botanical Gardens where they learn about green infrastructure, and urban farming and management. Earlier this year, Dr. Radhakrishnan opened the LaGuardia Hydroponic Lab, supported by Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (NY-7th District) and in partnership with non-profit educational organization NY Sun Works.

Since 2023, LaGuardia has hosted the USDA's Northeast Region liaison. From her LaGuardia office, Herminia "Mina" Gomez builds partnerships for the USDA with Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) in the region and works to attract Hispanic students from Queens and beyond to careers with the USDA. Recently, Gomez collaborated with Dr. Radhakrishnan on hosting a career panel for LaGuardia students about jobs in farming and urban agriculture.

The LaGuardia Urban Farm and Research Laboratory was conceived by the college's former provost, Dr. Paul Arcario, a gardener, and ardent supporter of LaGuardia's Urban Agriculture program. College staff involved in the design and implementation of the Urban Farm include Senior Vice President of Administration and Finance Shahir Erfan and members of the college's Facilities and Buildings and Grounds staff including Kenneth Campanelli, Ruben Mercier, Salim Djari, Cristina Natale, and Omar Salas Lopez.


Publication date: