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

Newsroom | The Nature Conservancy

Community Blooms Flower Farm Launches in Rochester’s Joseph Avenue Corridor

Community collaboration transforms a vacant lot for people and nature

Rochester, NY

On the corner of Joseph Avenue and Langham Street in Rochester, NY, an empty lot has stood as a reminder that the neighborhood once bustled with shops and businesses. This summer, thanks to a collaboration between Greentopia, The Nature Conservancy, the Joseph Avenue Business Association, and the City of Rochester, that lot will soon be filled with buzzing bees, native plants, a garden path, and thousands of flowers.

The 3/4-acre vacant lot is now the site of Community Blooms—a flower farm and community park designed to help young people gain on-the-job training while offering a public space where neighbors can enjoy nature’s many benefits.

Adapting a successful model developed by Greentopia’s Green Visions program, young adults from the community have been hired to work alongside staff from Green Visions and The Nature Conservancy. The team 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 The Nature Conservancy to enrich the space with commercial and native plantings that support birds and pollinators and absorb stormwater. 

“Green Visions is excited to expand our work to Joseph Avenue with support from The Nature Conservancy,” said Morgan Barry, Green Visions program director. “As we’ve learned at other sites like our gardens in Rochester’s JOSANA neighborhood, hard work yields results—you plant, water, weed, and give young people the chance to work and learn alongside you.”

David Miller, Green Visions graduate and site manager of the Joseph Avenue project, agrees: “Not only do you build your resume, you see your hard work pay off. At the end of it all, it’s a great feeling to see a field of flowers and know you helped make it happen.”

So far this summer, staff have been hired and trained, the community has been surveyed about their impressions of the project, existing soil has been tilled and augmented with compost, a water line has been 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.

In 2017, The Nature Conservancy’s 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 held a series of community conversations that laid the groundwork for the project taking root today.

The work also builds on efforts by the Joseph Avenue Business Association, which completed a Vision Plan in 2013 focused on neighborhood beautification, improved community services, and an enhanced business climate.

“We are hopeful that this work-study urban farming initiative with Green Visions and The Nature Conservancy will prove a successful prototype for alternative uses of Rochester’s vacant properties in conjunction with increased local employment and career education opportunities," said Neil R. Scheier, M.D, Joseph Avenue Business Association vice president.

According to Rochester’s proposed 2034 comprehensive plan, there are approximately 5,000 vacant parcels of land in the city and about 2,500 of them are city-owned.

“The City of Rochester is proud to support The Nature Conservancy and all of its partners in the development of the Community Blooms flower farm on Joseph Avenue,” said Mayor Lovely A. Warren. “Not only will this urban oasis add to the beauty of our city, it will create jobs for our residents and real-world learning experiences for our children. The Community Blooms flower farm is a now a living testament to the benefits of expanding urban agriculture in Rochester’s neighborhoods and the role it can play in helping us create more jobs, safer and more vibrant neighborhoods, and better educational opportunities for our citizens.”

“The Nature Conservancy works to protect the lands and waters we all depend on, and that includes nurturing green spaces within our cities,” added Jim Howe, The Nature Conservancy’s Central and Western NY chapter director. “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.”

Learn More at nature.org/communityblooms.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.