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Helping Rochester Grow

490 Farmers wants to help Rochester grow -- (and more than just food), but before we get into that, here’s a little bit of history from their founder, Chloe Smith.

Our History

“The lot was on my route to work, and each day I passed it, I fell deeper into wondering how it could become a community space. At the time I had recently read the book City Farmer by Lorraine Johnson and had spent time at a communal farm-stay. I wanted to bring that atmosphere to Rochester.

I reached out to an acquaintance about how to start a community garden, and was swiftly guided along a breadcrumb trail of helpful people. Within weeks, I found myself at a meeting with the Urban Agriculture Working Group, a collective of amazing local activists, city leaders, and experienced farmers. The guest speaker that night happened to be an official from the local NYS DOT, who was there to discuss lots that might be used for urban farming. I asked about the 490 spot and was told to simply send in a project proposal for them to consider.

The DOT approved our half-baked Google Docs proposal. Within 6 months, we had a DBA registered, DOT ROW and Highway Work permits, an insurance policy, and permission from the neighborhood and City to go ahead with creating the Broadway Community Garden which has come to be known simply as the 490 Farm. It is the first community garden on state-owned land in New York and the second largest in the city after the Lexington Ave Foodlink Garden. I knew I wanted it to be more, so I reached out to a group of individuals to help 490 Farmers, well... grow!”

490 Farmers is proud to nourish the surrounding neighborhood and beyond. They hope you stop by to see them soon!

Where they were & where they’re headed

Starting with just 10 garden plots & a shed, 490 Farmers has grown to offer 50 plots for rent, a Children’s Garden, a Free Food Forest complete with fruit trees, berry bushes & numerous perennial vegetables, an Herb Circle, beehive, Little Free Pantry, community composting area, rain catchment set up, and gathering in just three seasons. The Food Forest supplies 2 local food pantries and Food Not Bombs Roc, as well as individuals who come to harvest, which include members of a homeless encampment across the street. The Children’s Garden & composting bins are well utilized by families in the neighborhood, the rental plots serve about 45 families who lack access to growing space, and workshops and events serve the greater Rochester community. In 2019, 490 Farmers received a grant from the Greater Rochester Health Foundation to increase their scope, purchase materials & plants, and to build their Children’s Garden. Until now, they have operated 100% on a volunteer basis and supported the garden through yearly plot rental fees & donations.

Helping Rochester Grow

490 Farmers became incorporated as a nonprofit in 2021 to increase their services to the community. They want to help Rochester grow by using their existing garden space to its fullest potential and also by branding and stewarding vacant garden plots and beds across the city as a part of the 490 Farmers umbrella to expand their footprint. This will increase food access in the areas that need it most. They want to have Rochester community members grow their urban agricultural knowledge, too. 490 Farmers plans to offer more free programs to community members with a focus on supporting and educating RCSD students. The garden experts and farm managers will provide age appropriate programing to foster an interest in gardening, sustainability, and cooking. Finally, 490 Farmers wants to help Rochester grow through sharing their philosophy that access to fresh food is a human right.

What We Offer:

• 50 garden plots! Raised beds of varying sizes used for food or therapy gardening. All garden plots are currently filled for this year!

• Free Food Forest! A perennial forest garden where volunteers can help themselves. We have a wide assortment of fruit trees, berry bushes, herbs, and perennial vegetables. Additional produce is used to stock our Little Free Pantry, or donated to the South Wedge Food Program.

• Children’s Garden! Our sectioned pinwheel design provides an opportunity for children to play in the different soil types and a sand box, walk along a yellow brick road, learn and help grow some kid-friendly plants (flowers, vegetables, & native pollinators). Any child with adult supervision is welcome to harvest from the Children’s Garden.

• Community Composting! A three bin system where anyone can bring their kitchen or garden compost. The compost is located at our entrance on Meigs St. Learn more about composting here.

• Little Free Pantry/FNB Food Stand! Part of the Roc Food Not Bombs network of Free Food Stands throughout the city. Leave what you can, and take what you need.

Free Food Forest Children’s Garden Community Composting and so much more! Located at SE Corner Broadway & Meigs St in Rochester

Meet our Board Chair! Chloe Smith

Chloe Smith (she/her) grew up in Scottsville and studied Illustration at RIT. Since 2014 she has worked as a local artist & muralist with a passion for beautifying the community she lives in. Over the years she has also worked as a teacher, receptionist, retail merchandiser, and empanada maker. She started the 490 Garden in 2017 as a side project and effort to build community, and feels so blessed to have seen it come to fruition and to have found her tribe in the process. She loves vegetables, animals, being outdoors, and traveling.


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1 Comment

Very, very, cool. If every neighborhood had the interaction of all kinds of people I see at this garden and market every Wednesday evening, the city of Rochester would indeed be a changed place.

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