BY TRISHA SAKHUJA
What started as a guerilla community garden on an abandoned lot in Long Island City is now seeking approval from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to become a recognized urban community garden.
Gil Lopez, a landscape architect by profession, founded the farm three years ago with a group of urban farmers who were looking to start a farm by using untraditional methods to create a sense of community, where they would grow produce.
After finding the industrial lot, located at the corner of Skillman Avenue and Pearson Place, Lopez said they tested the soil and cleaned it by using mushrooms through a process called mycoremediation.
He said when they first found the one-acre site, they did not see a “No Trespassing” sign, so they decided to transform it into the Smiling Hogshead Ranch.
Since the farm sits on rocky land surrounded by lots of trees, Lopez said they have been innovative in the way they create high-end agriculture with storm water runoff and food scraps.
Lopez said even though they are farming illegally, he is proud to see the illegal activity that used to take place at the lot clear out.
“I feel good about it,” Lopez said. “I want people to know we are there.”
He said over the years, the community has become so involved, like the teachers and special-needs students of a nearby school, PS 4 Robert Vernam.
Lopez said he wants the farm to be a place where students can learn about the soil, plants and insects.
“The MTA/LIRR has reached out to us and we are negotiating a Garden License Agreement for use of the land,” Lopez said.
For the future, Lopez said they seek to become a non-profit and offer job-training courses, hire a farm manager and work with schools to organize educational field trips.
Reach Trisha Sakhuja at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Tsakhuja13.