By Fern Gillespie
Qiana Mickie, environmental justice and food equity advocate has been appointed by Mayor Eric Adams as director of the newly-created Mayor’s Office of Urban Agriculture to expand the city’s network of community gardens and urban farms.
“Urban agriculture is a growing industry in our city that has the potential to expand the supply of healthy and locally grown food, create jobs, and make our city more resilient. Qiana brings a wealth of experience,” said Mayor Adams. When he was Brooklyn Borough President, they invested millions of dollars in capital funding into schools’ vertical farming and hydroponics labs.
Mickie, a former executive director of Just Food and a lifelong New Yorker, has an 11-year career focusing on the intersection of equity, food systems resiliency, and agriculture. A graduate of Hampton University, she is a founding principal of QJM Multiprise. She has consulted on multiple policy, food and farm businesses, agriculture, and other equity-driven projects locally and nationally.
“The creation of the office signifies the acknowledgment of the contributions of historic urban agriculture champions, as well as the breadth of knowledge in the current landscape of urban agriculture growers, producers, entrepreneurs, and land stewards,” said Qiana Mickie, Director of Mayor’s Office of Urban Agriculture. “Mayor Adams and the administration chose a critical acknowledgment on the interconnectedness of our natural and built environment and the potential to spur urban agriculture development, advance innovation, and cultivate equity in our city.”
“Urban farms and community gardens play an important role in supporting our climate goals, providing hands-on opportunities for New Yorkers to learn about sustainability and healthy eating and supporting access to nature, biodiversity, and community space that boosts social resiliency,” said Kizzy Charles-Guzman, Executive Director, New York City Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice.
Noted Brooklyn advocates for food equity, land stewardship, and community wellness cheered Mickie’s appointment: Rae Gomes, Central Food Coop; Yemi Amu, founder, and executive director, Oko Urban Farms; Ribka Getachew, director, New York Good Food Purchasing Program Campaign at Community Food Advocates (CFA); Iyeshima Harris, project director, East New York Farms and Tonya Gayle, executive director, Green City Force.
“I want to congratulate Qiana Mickie. What Mayor Adams is doing now is wonderful. Urban agriculture in the cities should be one of our foremost priorities,” Yonnette Fleming, President of the Hattie Carthan Community Garden and Hattie Carthan Community Farmer’s Market, told Our Time Press. Her work provides community solutions to the issue of food insecurity, health disparities, and social inequities. “I’m a female farmer representing less than one percent of Black female farmers. We are the unicorns in that industry.”
Hattie Carthan was a pioneer environmental justice advocate whose legacy has reined in Brooklyn for over 50 years. During the last 20 years, Fleming has been involved in volunteer and leadership roles at the organization. She headed a team of volunteer gardeners who reclaimed and transformed a garbage-filled lot. They have distributed over 20 tons of fresh food and processed 30 tons of waste through a community compost system. In 2011, Fleming initiated an Urban Agriculture Youth Corps so local teens learn about food justice and herbal methods and support all organization activities.
“I am involved in creating greenhouses and cultural literacy that could help us evolve in the future. I think that there should be an emphasis on youth. Hattie Carthan involved youth,” she said. “Youth are critical and not necessarily in the same ways they have been involved. They must be at the core of making the processes.”
Fleming invites Mayor Adams to revisit the historic urban environmental center founded by Hattie Carthan, Magnolia Tree Earth Center of Bedford Stuyvesant. “We can introduce initiatives to counteract the feminine erasure of our environmental ‘sheroes,” she said. “Through rebuilding the center, it provides valuable habitable operating space for community leaders working in the environment.”