Who's That Gal: Jessie Benhazl, CEO & Founder of Green City Growers
Occupation: CEO & Founder, Green City Growers
Hometown: Wayland, MA
Current hood: Inman Sq, Cambridge
Tell us a little bit about Green City Growers. What is your main goal as a company?
GCG converts unused spaces into urban farms. We install raised-bed and rooftop farms to produce hyper-local produce from within city limits, and to engage the public in the importance of eating fresh, healthy food through growing it yourself.
What got you interested in urban agriculture?
I read “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan. That was really inspiring for me. Also, starting to grow some of my own crops and realizing it’s not that hard as long and you have the right conditions to start. '
What is the biggest challenge in expanding urban agriculture In Boston?
Capitalizing the company has been difficult since we’re a products and services company, not a tech business. Finding space to grow is the number one challenge, there is not a lot of extra space in Boston.
How much food do current gcg spaces provide?
We can grow up to 100lbs per season from a garden as small a 4’x8’. Over the last 6 seasons, we’ve grown 150,000lbs of produce in under 2 acres of growing space combined.
The Fenway Park Gardens are in a highly visible area - is it your plan to make gcg a leader in boston’s healthy eating/low impact dialogue?
We’d love to be! Fenway has been an incredible experience because of it’s reach. Over 500,000 individuals will interact with the farm annually, which means we have a lot of folks who haven’t thought about urban agriculture, not to mention seen it, seeing our farm. We’ve had only positive feedback from the public about the project, and with the backing of the Red Sox and I hope we can see individuals start to see the value of these projects on both a large and small (home) scale.
I’m from the area. Also, this city is so progressive it was an easier sell to a more liberal audience when we were first getting started.
What advice would you give to novice gardeners and aspiring locavores?
Just dive right in! The key to learning is to try it out, see what works and what doesn’t, and adjust. It’s not as hard as you think, its mostly about finding out what works for your particular space, as well as what will work for you in terms of a time commitment.
Besides eating local foods and gardening, how else do you lead a mindful lifestyle?
I exercise a lot, that is a hugely beneficial activity for me to stay sane.
What is next for gcg?
We’re expanding into Providence Rhode Island, wish us luck!
The Fun Stuff
Fav food you grow: Hot peppers
Best winter produce: Collard greens
Dream Getaway: Dreaming big, Spain. Dreaming with some reality mixed in, Portland Maine.