Fields brings you the stories of people who are working in urban agriculture—for money, for fun, to feed the hungry, and for entirely other reasons. In each episode, hosts Melissa Metrick and Wythe Marschall delve into different foods grown in cities. Moreover, we investigate the whys behind getting up in the morning and working as a farmer in the shadow of skyscrapers. You don’t need to be a farmer to enjoy this podcast, or even a foodie! With their expert guests, Melissa and Wythe break down the realities and possible futures of urban farming to their elements.
Mayoral Candidate Kathryn Garcia Talks Urban Ag
How will Garcia’s ambitious green infrastructure plans promote urban farming in NYC?
The Fields team reached out to all of the major candidates for mayor of New York regarding their urban agriculture plans. Kathryn Garcia gave us an hour of her time to discuss her highly relevant background as well as her new green infrastructure plan. Garcia has previously served as Commissioner for the New York City Sanitation Department, incident commander during Hurricane Sandy, Interim Chair and CEO of the New York City Housing Authority, and Food Czar for New York's emergency food program during the COVID-19 emergency response. As mayor, she plans to green every roof in NYC and much more. We discuss food and environmental policy with a special focus on what this means for urban farmers. Give us a listen, plant a seed, and please share Fields with a friend!
Alex Rewagan: Craft Cannabis
How will cannabis legalization play out in different cities? Will legalization give rise to a craft weed industry?
With cannabis laws fluctuating every year, Melissa and Wythe have a lot of questions about the home-growing of this popular plant, its regulation by the government, and its use by consumers. Before New York State moved to legalize recreational cannabis use—we spoke to social scientist Alex Rewegan (Ph.D. candidate, MIT) about his research into cannabis production and the heterogeneous legalization process in North America. Alex is from Canada and conducts research there, but he lives in the Boston area and has a lot of thoughts on U.S. legalization processes, too. We discuss who will benefit and who will likely be left behind by different forms of cannabis legalization, and we also get into why certain uses of this plant are just now taking off in consumer culture—that is, what’s up with CBD? It’s everywhere! We also discuss home-grown or small-scale “craft” cannabis as opposed to industrial growing, how Canadian smokers have responded to legalization, and who may grow cannabis at home in cities today. Take a listen, plant a seed, and please share Fields with a friend!
Prepping with Delicious Microbes
What are ways that the pandemic is nudging us to work with delicious microbes?”
During a time when antibacterial soaps and wipes are flying off shelves, why are people cultivating microbes at home? Melissa Metrick (NYU Urban Farm Lab/Nutrition and Food Studies Department) and Wythe Marschall talk about how the COVID-19 pandemic is bringing more and more people into growing food at home—not only via backyard or window-sill gardening, but also via growing their own sourdough starters for bread and preserving food through pickling and canning. Melissa (a long-time sourdough starter enthusiast who has moonlighted in urban homesteading and food preservation) and Wythe (a novice baker) discuss the tension between “good” and “bad” microbes. We explore these different invisible living microbes that are all around us. Some “good microbes” we cultivate to make food delicious or preserve food. Other “bad microbes” can make us sick; whole organizations work to protect our bodies against them. Check us out and subscribe! Future episodes will feature expert guests—and of course more hot microbe-talk! If you have questions or feedback for us, please get in touch.
Alexis Mena: Universe City and Afro-Indigenous Food Sovereignty
How are Universe City and Grow Brownsville helping community members grow their own food, invent their own technologies, and push back against gentrification?
In this episode, Melissa and Wythe learn about the inspiring farm-tech co-op Universe City from one of its founders—multidisciplinary farmer, chef, and artist Alexis Mena. Universe City is Brownsville and East New York’s first aquaponic farm, food hub, and maker space. At this space, farmers grow fish and greens and teach growing skills. Universe City is collecting funds to expand their already impressive operation through a campaign called Grow Brownsville. Alexis talks about the importance of their Afro-Taino heritage, how to make and keep places for community use, and why it’s so important that kids in Brooklyn see tech innovation happening in their own communities. We also discuss gentrification and greenwashing head-on. This is a timely conversation, and Alexis is a visionary grower and educator. Check out our conversation, subscribe to Fields, share with your friends, and support Grow Brownsville!
Candace Thompson: Foraging in Cities
How can we learn to forage in cities—and use Instagram to get to know the living world around us?
Artist, organizer, urban forager, and social media ninja Candace Thompson (Collaborative Urban Resilience Banquet) joins Wythe and Melissa to dig into a variety of practical and visionary topics about what wild foods we can harvest in urban areas and preservation techniques from pickling to making your own beer. Candace tells us about plants that we are usually blind to in urban areas—weeds. Some weeds are not only edible but can have fewer toxins in them than store-bought foods! To educate the world about her citizen-science experiments and her unusual foods of choice, she uses Instagram to tell the stories of weeds. This episode dives into foraging in NYC, testing and cleaning up polluted soils, learning from hundreds of growers on Instagram, and how one a-ha! moment in nature led to a lifelong curiosity about the world around her. This episode goes all over the place, like a rhizome: give it a listen and subscribe for more!
Maya Kutz: Urban Ag and Mutual Aid
“What’s it like, farming on a roof next to a jail in Brooklyn during a pandemic? How have urban farms responded to the pandemic?”
Melissa and Wythe catch up with their friend Maya Kutz, greenhouse manager at the Brooklyn Grange’s newest rooftop farm in Sunset Park. Maya is an experienced grower and food justice activist. We talk about both her work growing greens—how she became a manager of a greenhouse on a roof in NYC—and her work to provide food aid to people during the pandemic. Maya walks us through different types of controlled environment agriculture (CEA), or indoor growing, including hydroponics. We talk about how she came to work for the Grange, and why she’s involved in aid work. Give us a listen, plant a seed, and subscribe to Fields!