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Foodlink makes moves to expand its urban farm in northwest Rochester

A woman with a pink scarf on her head, wearing a multicolor patterned shirt and a blue and white skirt with patterned white branches picks leafy greens from a garden bed.
File photo
CITY Magazine
Lali Lamzdey was tending to one of the gardens in Foodlink's Community Farm on Lexington Avenue in this photo from 2017.

Foodlink is planning to expand its Community Farm on Lexington Avenue in northwest Rochester, a move that the organization’s leaders say will help them better serve the surrounding neighborhoods.

The urban farm is currently 1.66 acres, but Foodlink is buying five adjacent lots from the city to expand it to 2.3 acres. Julia Tedesco, the organization’s president and CEO, said that will allow for more garden plots and the construction of a 3,000-square-foot greenhouse — the first permanent structure on the farm.

“It will enable us to grow year-round and to offer programming and increase opportunities for volunteers to come on site and community members to grow throughout the year,” Tedesco said.

Rochester City Council will vote later this month on selling the lots to Foodlink for their $15,000 appraised value. The farm’s current footprint covers an old subway bed.

The $1.6 million expansion plans also include a 2,800-square-foot Edible Education Center that will host workshops, events, and neighborhood meetings. They also include additional parking spaces and a bus loop so Foodlink can hold educational programs for students.

Foodlink established its urban farm in 2011 with a primary focus on serving Burmese and Nepali immigrants. Currently, 70 of those New American families have plots at the farm, and they grow about 6,000 pounds of food a year, according to Tedesco.

“What's really cool is they're using a lot of seeds that are indigenous to their homelands,” Tedesco said. “So we're seeing crops that we don't see anywhere else in Rochester — different types of corn and squash and flowers that they grow. We see a lot of tomatoes and some typical items from our region.”

By expanding the farm, Foodlink will be able to provide garden plots to another 20-30 households from the wider community. The expansion plans were developed with community input.

Erik Frisch, the city’s deputy commissioner of neighborhood and business development, said the Lexington Avenue site is the largest community garden or urban farm in the city and that its expansion is consistent with the city’s goals of improving food access.

"Nothing better than being able to take vacant properties and put them back to productive use serving important community needs,” Frisch said.

Rochester City Council will vote on selling the five lots to Foodlink when it meets later this month.

Jeremy Moule is a deputy editor with WXXI News. He also covers Monroe County.