California to Oklahoma and Italy to NYC

 Casandra Pinamonti takes us on a whirlwind tour around the world.

Gardening and farming, in general, has always been a fascination of mine.  My family is originally from southern California. I remember my mom having an expansive vegetable garden, something she devoted a lot of time to.  At a young age, my family transplanted to Oklahoma, a place where you would think a farming and gardening tradition would thrive.  Alas, Oklahomans save that for the farmers. In the suburbs, the game is manicured lawns and perfect grass.  Whole Foods will get you your “local” produce.

Global garden
Gardens bring the world together.

After trying to convince my mother for years to let me hack away at a piece of her pristine backyard grass for vegetables to no avail, I came to NYU.  When I studied abroad at NYU’s Florence, Italy campus, I was introduced to a gardening club called The Greens We Eat.  Lead by the head gardener of the Boboli Gardens and NYU’s La Pietra Villas, it was a chance for me to learn the science behind gardening and have a patch of dirt to call my own for 4 months.  We grew fennel, Tuscan kale, and broccoli, among others.  We were also encouraged to pick produce from the other parts of the garden any time we wanted.  I regularly took figs, lemons, limes, oranges, tomatoes, peppers, and basil home.  The club culminated in a harvest of labored-over vegetables and professional chefs teaching us how to make traditional Tuscan dishes.  It was a rewarding experience that changed my outlook on food.

Coming back to New York, I became skeptical of my produce.  I went from picking it myself to seeing neat grocery store displays.  While community gardens exist across New York, there is not one near me in my part of Brooklyn.  This led me to look for an urban agriculture community at NYU.  This was harder for me than you would think.  I am a business student at Stern.  While my advisors have ample information on becoming a finance and economics double major with a minor in mathematics, they have very little information on other parts of the NYU community.  While I do enjoy my Stern education, some of my passions lie outside of finance.  Finding out how to become a Classical Civilizations minor was difficult enough task to do on my own, I feared finding a community garden or a related class would be even harder.

After scouring Albert, Steinhardt’s website, and grilling my friends and advisors, I discovered a class that had both a theoretical and practical agriculture aspect.  Currently, we have yet to get our hands dirty due to chilly weather, but I am eagerly waiting to get outside.  Not only do I look forward to the gardening aspect of the class, but also the community that chooses to partake in this project.  My class is filled with very diverse students I would have never been able to meet or connect with otherwise.  And we have more than just a class together, but an actual living, breathing thing that we will help build and grow together.

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