Stories

NEW ROOTS IN TOWN

Jessica, 23, unexpectedly found that a little patch of greenery in the city could make her feel like she had a greater purpose.

I came to New York untied to any place or thing.

When I studied abroad in Milan, couch-surfing was my way of befriending locals and connecting with the places around me — it was all about honest conversations and sharing experiences.

This was the mindset I brought with me to New York. This city is such a big space and we come across so many places we didn’t know exist. You could walk by something, go back, and it might not be there anymore.

But, I found the Lower East Side as one of those places where you can really build a community and make yourself a local. It started when I joined a community garden I didn’t know existed. It was formerly a drug den in the 80’s but transformed into a space for people to enjoy. I had some experience with farming in West Virginia and I was looking for a way to be connected to the earth. Gardening also became a great way for for me to connect with a community and find inspiration. I worked there for 2-3 hours a week, built relationships with the local vendors, and learned more of the people living there. It was hard to dedicate weekends to this, especially after a tough work week. But it was also therapeutic and refreshing.

What I love about the garden is that if you have an idea, you just need to do it. I wanted to start a composting initiative since they didn’t have one. Now, I’m the Composting Queen. You had to earn a spot in the garden. Eventually, I did get a key and a plot. I want to make it my own soon — sure it’s overwhelming now but I’m really excited.

The Lower East Side has become more familiar — one of the local gardener’s daughter is friends with the patisserie owner on DeLancey Street, I could walk over to Economy Candy and call someone by first name, or chat with people at the 4th Street Food Co-Op.

I had a mission to not feel like I didn’t belong. Working at the garden helped me accomplish that.

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