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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Secret garden grows amid concrete jungle

By Ashley Helms
Posted
Jika González/The Riverdale Press
Ian Kirby and Michael Forman volunteer their time to work at the Pure Love Organic Farm, once an empty lot at 4400 Independence Ave. In top photo, Mr. Kirby turns over the soil in preparation for planting.
Jika González/The Riverdale Press
Mr. Forman admires the compost in his makeshift compost bin.
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Correction appended.

Seeing beds of tulips growing in the spring sunshine, one might never suspect that the owners of True Love Organic Farm on Independence Avenue had to give the area a complete makeover before they could begin planting. The half-acre plot of land was a dumping ground before Ian Kirby and Michael Forman, both 30, began cleaning it up and using it for gardening in May 2012. 

“It was mostly me out here hacking away at asphalt with a shovel. We found almost an entire car underneath the ground and we didn’t know if anything could grow here,” Mr. Forman said.

At the farm, Mr. Forman and Mr. Kirby grow all of their crops with certified organic seeds, and they eschew the use of pesticides or other chemicals to help them grow. The seeds also come from crops that have never been touched by artificial chemicals, Mr. Forman explained.

Everything on the property has been repurposed and the soil is treated with compost, which adds nutrients so plants can thrive, added Mr. Forman, who works as an account manager in an environmental services company. Residents are encouraged to donate food scraps for the compost on Wednesdays and weekends.

Growing an idea

Mr. Forman said he and a friend were discussing ways to do something great for the community in 2012 when the idea for the farm came up. He found the land while walking down Independence Avenue and thought it was an incredible amount of space for New York City.

“After throwing a few ideas around, I was like, lets go into farming. We knew nothing about nothing. I had never even planted anything before,” Mr. Forman said.

Mr. Kirby is a professional illustrator, but has a master composter certificate from the city. With him on staff, Mr. Forman said, they learned how to garden as they went along. All of the debris was removed from the plot by hand and rocks found underground were turned into borders for the crop beds.

“Nothing you see out here is bought except for the seeds,” Mr. Forman said.

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