Planting For The Future With Just Food Trainer Eric Thomann

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File 1523For the past 17 years, at the corner of Hamilton Avenue and Van Brundt Street in Red Hook, The Backyard Garden has served as a place for local residents to garden, grow food, and enjoy community activities. Founder Eric Thomann is still running the Backyard Garden, and his passion for community gardening has enabled him to work with his neighbors to turn the once vacant lot into a truly remarkable urban garden. 

 “We have been growing food for 10,000 years, on every continent. We know how to do it,” says Eric. “But the last few generations have moved away from soil – for me, the real thrill is seeing people get their hands back in the soil and reconnect with the history of gardening.”

In 2007, Eric went through Just Food’s City Farms Training program, which empowers community gardeners to spread their knowledge about growing food. Eric became a Just Food City Farms Trainer that spring, and has been leading urban farming workshops all over NYC ever since. One of his favorites was a recent workshop in Brooklyn on tree pruning. “These skills allow people to manage a healthy tree crop and get the most food production from a fruit tree,” he says. Eric has also taught workshops on integrated pest management, compost bin building, soil, and, another favorite of his, season extension.

Outside of his work with Just Food, Eric works as a garden consultant for the New York City Housing Authority. Part of his job is leading afterschool programs teaching young children at Lower East Side schools how to grow food. A recent program held at a tree nursery had eight-year-olds planting seeds for almond trees. “At first, they didn’t understand that they wouldn’t be able to eat the food right away – almond trees take ten years to grow. We live in a ‘grab and gobble’ culture, so it was amazing to show them the concept of planting something for the future.”

Eric’s favorite October vegetable? Kale! His delicious recipe for kale salad is quite simple: chop and sauté kale in olive oil, and serve with sliced almonds and a little vinegar.