Agriculture in the city

New York City (NYC) is home to over two dozen commercial farms that grow vegetables and fruit from building rooftops to reclaimed city lots. In addition to the commercial forms of urban agriculture, are the hundreds of community gardens in the NYC metro area. The growing demand to grow food in cities has surfaced as a critical facet of food security and dignity. The COVID-19 pandemic has unveiled the vulnerabilities of urban populations to food systems that rely on a rigid distribution network. Fresh fruits and vegetables were made more inaccessible to low-income populations unless there was access to a growing space for gardening or opportunities for direct small farmer-to-consumer markets. The goal of this project is to enhance soil management methods that improve the production quality of vegetables and fruit in systems that rely on free, municipal compost. We will be establishing experiments that build up soil structure and aggregate stability at farms and gardens through the enrichment of specific types of soil biota. Prior communication with multiple farm and garden managers indicates an interest in inoculating composts with beneficial biota, like arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and worms, for greater soil aggregation.

Roles and responsibilities 

The intern will work with CCE Harvest NY extension associates, Yolanda Gonzalez and Sam Anderson, and Atkinson Center Postdoctoral Fellow, Perl Egendorf, to conduct the field projects, collect data, and share results with the farmers and gardeners. The intern will support additional projects on urban agriculture in NYC that may include pest and nutrient management, workforce development, and mushroom farming. The intern will write a report of their activities at the conclusion of the internship that can be in the form of a scientific paper summarizing the research experiment or a reflective report on what they learned and experienced throughout the internship.

Qualifications and previous coursework

This opportunity is available to students in Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Coursework in plant science, entomology, soil science, environmental science, ecology, biology, and/or agricultural sciences is highly recommended. Prior research experience is not required. Intern must be able to lift 40 pounds. A driver's license is helpful, but not required.

Learning outcomes 

  • The intern will be able to understand the scientific method as used in applied science research projects involving food production.
  • The intern will be fully engaged in the full process of gathering information to devise a hypothesis and plan an experiment for data collection and analysis.
  • The intern will also learn of different ways to engage with community members on on-site research projects. For example, the student will be exposed to critical participatory action research (CPAR) methods when mentored by Atkinson Center Fellow, Perl Egendorf.
  • The intern will have the option of learning how to write a scientific paper or develop a reflective paper detailing experiences in extension and engagement.