Ralph Waldo Emerson said “many eyes grow through the meadow, yet few see the flowers in it.” Chloe Smith, founder of 490 Farmers is a person who sees the flowers. She sees where flowers and food can bloom in a space where there is none. Chloe and Courtney Klee, the Executive Director of 490 Farmers, shared their positivity and time with me to tell me more about the amazing 490 Farmers.
In the fall of 2017 as Chloe walked to work she would pass a plot of land off of the I490 in Rochester NY, owned by the NYS Department of Transportation (DOT) that was barren. It was dirt, glass, and weeds. Chloe, who had returned from working on a community garden project, thought this was a good spot for a community farm. She wanted to give back to the community. Chloe, being a positive change agent in the world, reached out to people. She kept getting connected to the right people who could help her, to see how she could get the land. By the spring of 2018 the DOT had given 490 Farmers the land and the gardens had begun. The DOT is now letting 490 Farmers use the land across the street due to the trust that the DOT has in 490 Farmers
“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom” Marcel Proust
Chloe shared it has been easy for people to become involved with working the gardens. The plot is on a visual corner. When this process was beginning Chloe reached out to the Pearl Meigs Neighborhood Association who jumped on board to help. SEAC (South East Area Coalition) has supported 490 Farmers with grant money and holding the insurance. People just naturally gravitated towards this community garden. Volunteers and plot members showed up to help. Chloe and Courtney shared what people ask is how can I help or they simply take care of what needs to be done. This shared space has created shared bonds of goodness.
In 2020 Courtney (who does not know how to garden-yet) became the executive director of 490 Farmers. Prior to this she also was walking by the growing garden. She went to a few of the weekly farm nights and was intrigued. At that time Courtney was working for SEAC so while she knew about 490 Farmers she had not experienced the magic that goes on there. In 2020 she became more actively involved there. As she got to know Chloe better, working with her as an artist and all the positivity at 490 Farmers she knew she wanted to be more involved. During the time the pandemic hit in 2020 much changed. Courtney left her job at SEAC and approached Chloe about becoming a non-profit. Chloe was feeling burnt out from all she had been doing for the past three years on this garden so this wonderful transition occurred. Courtney became the Executive Director, Chloe became part of the Board, and 490 Farmers became a non-profit.
“If you build it they will come.” W.P. Kinsella
There are many treasures at the 490 Farmers gardens. There is a children’s garden, garden plots to rent, a free food forest, free community composting, a little free pantry, FNB (Food not bombs) food stand. They had water installed to ease taking care of the gardens. There is a flower garden. A homeschool group comes to the garden as part of their curriculum. One of the plots is dedicated to people who are houseless. There is an urban CSA where they give boxes of vegetables to families. The 490 Farmers have expanded to having more educational programs. There was a class where people could make seed bombs, and a workshop on gardening for people who are visually impaired. The houseless community across the street have been actively involved since the beginning in 2017. At this garden all are welcome and all ideas are honored. Chloe and Courtney shared they want all people to be successful. This garden is a true community garden that they want to thrive and grow regardless of who is involved in the work.
“Look for the joy.” Courtney Klee
As 490 Farmers continues to grow both Chloe and Courtney are both passionate in their love of supporting other people and helping to make this world a better place. They celebrate the people who utilize the space. All people are respected. They highlight how the volunteers, plot members, board members, their farm manager Rachel Farley, the houseless community across the street have made this garden what it is. They have both lived in places all over the world and shared there is something special about Rochester, NY. This community provides encouragement and support in many ways. Both Chloe and Courntey expressed gratitude for prior life experiences that inspired them in positive ways. Planting seeds inside of them where there is a blank plot of land, a forest of food, flowers and community can blossom connecting people from different backgrounds in a shared space.
490 Farmers we are honored and thrilled to shine our Kindness Champion spotlight on you. Chloe thank you for being the heart and soul that began something that feeds bellies and nourishes spirits. Thank you Courtney for your passion and love for all things 490 Farmers. Thank you to plot members, volunteers, board members, the houseless community for all you are doing for this shared sacred space. Steve Maraboli said “don’t wait for other people to be loving, giving, compassionate, grateful, forgiving, generous, or friendly..lead the way.” Thank you 490 Farmers for leading the way.
To learn more about 490 Farmers here is their information: