Sunflowers find a home at Community Blooms. © Lucie Parfitt/TNC

Stories in New York

Community Blooms in Rochester

A vacant lot is now a flower farm designed to help young people gain on job training while bringing nature to the community.

Kate Frazer Associate Director, New York Marketing and Communications

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On the corner of Joseph Ave. and Langham St. in Rochester, NY, an empty lot has stood as a reminder that the neighborhood once bustled with shops and businesses. This summer, that lot will be filled with buzzing bees, native plants, a garden path and thousands of flowers.

As in many post-industrial cities, some Rochester neighborhoods have been hurt by factors including declines in employment opportunities, lack of investment, and racial injustice. One result is that thousands of vacant lots fragment neighborhoods like Joseph Avenue.

Thanks to an innovative community conservation project led by Green Visions, The Nature Conservancy, Joseph Avenue Business Association and the City of Rochester, one of these vacant lots is now the site of Community Blooms—a flower farm designed to help young people gain on-job training while offering a place where the community can enjoy nature’s many benefits.

sign install.  Alison Agresta installing.  Mat Levine photographer
Joseph Ave sign install. Alison Agresta installing. Mat Levine photographer © Mathew Levine/TNC

The existing soil has been tilled and amended with compost, a water line was installed, and seeds of sunflowers, zinnias, black-eyed susans, and other flowers have been pressed into the soil. But the project has been germinating for several years.

With help from Nature Conservancy trustee Emanuel Carter, a professor at State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and his class of landscape architect students, a series of community conversations lay the groundwork for the project taking root today.

“We interviewed residents, faith leaders, business owners and city officials and heard loud and clear that some of the neighborhood’s urgent needs were public safety and workforce development,” says Darran Crabtree, a Senior Conservation Strategy Advisor for The Nature Conservancy. Hearing these priorities, the Conservancy reached out to Green Visions, a workforce development and neighborhood beautification program with a successful track record of vacant lot re-use that engages young people at the critical post-high-school point of life.

We need approaches to urban conservation that are inclusive and equitable and make our cities more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

Central and Western NY chapter director
Tianna Jennings, Green Visions project manager, surveys the new sunflowers.
Tianna Jennings Green Visions project manager, surveys the new sunflowers. © Darran Crabtree/TNC

Green Visions has hired young adults from the Joseph Ave community who will gain experience in sales and business management this summer and fall as they grow and harvest flowers for custom-made bouquets that will be sold at several local Wegmans stores and the Rochester Public Market. They will also gain ecological management experience as they work with Conservancy staff to enrich the space with commercial and native plantings that support birds and pollinators while helping to absorb stormwater. 

“The Nature Conservancy works to protect the lands and waters we all depend on, and that includes nurturing the green spaces within our cities,” says Jim Howe, The Nature Conservancy’s Central and Western NY chapter director. “We need approaches to urban conservation that are inclusive and equitable and make our cities more resilient to the impacts of climate change. We have an opportunity in Rochester and other Upstate cities to help repurpose vacant lots in ways that directly benefit communities—environmentally and economically. Community Blooms is an exciting step in this direction.” 

Green Visions has hired young adults from the Joseph Ave community who will gain experience in sales and business management this summer and fall as they grow and harvest flowers for custom-made bouquets that will be sold at several local Wegmans stores and the Rochester Public Market. They will also gain ecological management experience as they work with Conservancy staff to enrich the space with commercial and native plantings that support birds and pollinators while helping to absorb stormwater. 

“The Nature Conservancy works to protect the lands and waters we all depend on, and that includes nurturing the green spaces within our cities,” says Jim Howe, The Nature Conservancy’s Central and Western NY chapter director. “We need approaches to urban conservation that are inclusive and equitable and make our cities more resilient to the impacts of climate change. We have an opportunity in Rochester and other Upstate cities to help repurpose vacant lots in ways that directly benefit communities—environmentally and economically. Community Blooms is an exciting step in this direction.” 

We want to hear from you.

Please email community.blooms@tnc.org to ask questions or offer us feedback and suggestions on the project.    

Kate is an Associate Director for the New York division, currently residing in Trumansburg.