"Farming can be a very solitary pursuit," Nora Painten tells us. But not for her: she runs the Student Farm Project, initially funded by Kickstarter to convert abandoned lots in New York into gardens starting with an 8,000-square foot lot in Brownsville, where she works with students. How'd she end up at PS/IS 323? "The principal there, Linda Harris, didn't kick me out of the building when I walked in there one day two summers ago with a bowl full of dirty carrots," she says.
Painten began farming in Connecticut in 2007 as a way to delay starting a career, but she soon fell in love with it. She also fell in love with a man, which is how she wound up in Brooklyn. "My now-husband is the ultimate city boy, and I knew that if I wanted to be with him I would have to find a way to do what I wanted to do—grow food—in the city," she says. The garden that allows her to do that is hopefully just the first step. "Eventually we'd like to expand the project to new spaces and schools and start an urban farmer training program for people in the neighborhood." So far, the community response has been overwhelmingly supportive. "The lot we built on has been vacant for decades, according to neighbors," Painten says. "It brings me a lot of joy to make a functional community greenspace where none existed before."