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Valery Rizzo's Eye on Brooklyn Urban Farming

30 December, 2016
Brooklyn Urban Farms by Valery Rizzo

Photo Valery Rizzo

Through an editorial assignment, I discovered the first rooftop farm in Brooklyn and decided it would be really interesting for my Brooklyn project as well. This farm was Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Greenpoint. I think the fact that I am a city girl is the reason I responded so passionately to seeing a farm in an urban environment and the fact that it was on a rooftop made it all the more appealing and different than anything I was used to seeing. I then started photographing more urban farms for both assignment work and my Brooklyn project and started growing my own vegetable garden in the backyard of my apartment building. Then in 2013 I received a residency at The Brooklyn Navy Yard as a visiting artist and spent a year photographing Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm on a warehouse rooftop along with other things in the yard. That farm is perhaps my favorite place in all of New York City and I was fortunate enough to have formed a nice relationship with all the wonderful people and farmers there.

As a photographer can you explain to us what is unique about working on urban farming projects as opposed to other projects?
Growing food is so important to the cycle of life. When I am on a farm I am always learning something new and I am constantly impressed by how things are grown and humbled by the hard work and brilliance that goes into farming. Vegetables and plants are gorgeous to me and I love the feeling of being in complete awe and want to express that in my photographs. The growers are also really down to earth great people and I really enjoy being around them as well.

Urban farming is about reconnecting communities to their food - how do you manage to tell that story through a camera lens?
I think when you can visually understand where your food comes from you learn to appreciate and educate yourself about what you are putting into your body nutritionally. I also think seeing the community volunteering and interacting through educational programs is a story worth telling. Most recently I started photographing Edgemere Farm out in Far Rockaway Queens, who are particularly involved in educating and serving the surrounding community. A large portion of the things they grow is Caribbean vegetables.

What do you see for the future of urban farming from your experiences?
More Rooftop Farms as well as more home gardens. Gardening at home whether in containers or raised beds is very rewarding and good for the soul. I also think one day more than ever we may need to eat locally as a necessity and growing your own food may very well be a very important skill to have. It’s also good for the environment.

Any other future projects you'd like to tell us about?
This summer I started a new project in Southern Italy called Terre. Terre explores the region of Campania, Italy, where everyone seems to own a piece of land, whether it be a garden, a farm, a little plot in their front yard, family wars are waged over it. It further explores the connection of that land to family, the people, and their history.

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