GreenThumb: NYC Food Based Community Organization Spotlight

by Alexina Cather, MPH

What they do: GreenThumb provides programming, technical assistance, materials, and operational support to nearly 600 community gardens in New York City.

How they do it: Workshops, which are the access point for supplies, are held several times per month, every month of the year, covering gardening basics to more advanced farming and community organizing topics.

Mission: “GreenThumb was initiated in response to the city’s financial crisis of the 1970s, which resulted in the abandonment of public and private land. The majority of GreenThumb gardens were derelict vacant lots renovated by volunteers.

These community gardens, now managed by neighborhood residents, provide important green space, thus improving air quality, bio–diversity, and the well–being of residents. But gardens aren’t just pretty spaces to grow flowers and food; they’re also important community resources where neighbors can interact, learn from one another, and  strengthening their neighborhoods in the process.”

Latest project/campaign: GreenThumb’s “Youth Leadership Council.” In partnership with NYC Service, GreenThumb is engaging over 125 high school students, 20 college mentors, and dozens of volunteer community gardeners each summer in volunteer service projects in 10 gardens throughout the City.  These program, where participants volunteer 20 or more hours of their time to complete garden and neighborhood improvement projects, engages youth in civic service, provides them mentorship from current college students and veteran community gardeners, promotes inter-generational interaction and learning, and helps to foster the next generation of New York City’s community gardeners.

Major Funding: Combination of federal, City and grant funding.

Profit/nonprofit: Government (Division of NYC Parks)

Annual budget: N/A

Interesting fact about how they are working to positively affect the food system: GreenThumb gardens are located in all five boroughs in the city. Some are green spaces meant for relaxation and as a community meeting space, others are full–fledged farms, and many are a mix of the types. The volunteer gardeners are the backbone of our program and are of diverse ages and backgrounds.


Location: Manhattan

Core Programs:

  • Community Gardens
  • Garden Advocacy
  • Garden Education
  • Urban Agriculture

Number of staff: 36

Number of volunteers: 20,000 volunteer gardeners, plus several thousand volunteers annually

Areas served: All five boroughs

Date started: 1978

Director: Bill LoSasso

Contact 602-5300

Photo credit: Phillip Kester, GreenThumb.

Location: “Rainbow Garden of Life and Health” in the Bronx.

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