Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture


City Farmers: GreenThumb

A Portrait of GreenThumb Gardens and Gardeners

Photographs by Katherine McGlynn

New York garden

photo by Katherine McGlynn

This show originated at the Museum of the City of New York and ran there from October 12, 1994 to May 12, 1995. It was exhibited in five places - Tweed Courthouse Gallery, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn Borough Hall, Brooklyn Center for the Urban Environment, Hostos Art Gallery in the Bronx and the National Arboretum in Washington D.C.

An exhibition of 43 colour photographs commemorating the fifteenth anniversary of New York's GreenThumb. GreenThumb is the largest municipally run gardening program in the United States. Its 700 gardens have replaced more than 125 acres of garbage strewn land throughout New York.

An important source of food, GreenThumb gardens annually produce fruits and vegetables valued at more than $1,000,000.

Jane Weissman, (E-mail:, then Director of GreenThumb and Curator of the Photographic Exhibition, introduces the exhibit in the text below.

Accompanying the exhibit is a wonderful handbook titled
Tales From The Field II, Stories By GreenThumb Gardeners


The Garden of Hope.
The Garden of Happiness.
The Garden of Eden.
The Magic Garden.
New Life Garden.

Striving Together.
United We Stand.
Back To Nature.
Down Home Garden.

Fiercely proud of their efforts, New Yorkers of fortitude and grit bestow such evocative names upon the city's most hidden and beloved treasures - GreenThumb community gardens. By dint of imagination and hard work, thousands of neighborhood activists have transformed vacant, derelict land into beautiful gardens overflowing with vegetables, flowers, laughter and love. From the South Bronx to South Jamaica, from East Harlem to East New York, GreenThumb's 700 community gardens represent the dreams, traditions, aspirations and cultures of the people who create them.

GreenThumb is sponsored by New York City's Department of Parks & Recreation and funded by federal Community Development Block Grants. Since 1978, GreenThumb and hundreds of community groups throughout the city's five boroughs have worked together, turning neighborhood eyesores and dens for vermin, drug dealers and stolen car rings into safe, thriving and productive oases of green.

GreenThumb leases city-owned land at no charge to neighborhood groups and trains them in garden design, construction, and horticultural techniques. GreenThumb provides gardeners with tools; fencing; lumber to build growing beds, picnic tables, gazebos and grape arbors; soil; ornamental and fruit trees; shrubs; seeds and bulbs. The gardeners, in turn, are responsible for developing and maintaining their garden sites.

How gardeners design, plant and use their gardens reflects their cultural and ethnic backgrounds as much as their needs for open space. There is no typical GreenThumb garden. Community gardens, in their exuberance and rakish beauty, celebrate in their quirkiness and individuality. GreenThumb gardens require commitment and dedication rather than grand plans and major financial investment.

Gardeners do, of course, require assistance and New York is indeed fortunate to have so many greening, open space and citizens organizations, all eager to offer materials and advice. Yet, these resources are for naught unless they are matched by the assets every neighborhood can supply in abundance ... the people who live there.

Successful community gardens prosper because they are initiated and sustained by neighborhood residents. Grass roots efforts. From the bottom up. GreenThumb gardens thrive because New Yorkers have made the gardens their own, on their own.

Green Thumb
49 Chambers Street Suite 1020
New York, NY 10007
(212) 788-8059

Go to Tales From The Field II
Stories By GreenThumb Gardeners

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Revised October 25, 1998

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture