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Gardener Spotlight: Khloe Swanson

While attending university in Los Angeles, Khloe noticed more and more gardens were used as a source of food. Her walks were filled with fruits and veggies, from hanging grapefruits and peaches to fresh mints. After spending some time on a farm it inspired her to pursue an opportunity in New York City and construct a 40,000 square feet green-roof farm for a charter school in Staten Island, a much forgotten borough in NYC.

This experience of building a rooftop farm helped her discover the process of layering various materials on top of each other to create the structure to hold soil, water and plants, which was fascinating to Khloe. At the same time, the repetition of this process started to get a bit tedious. However the whole experience of seeing an empty roof transformed a roof farm composed of layers of root barrier and drainage mats that held up to 12 inches of soil planted with winter cover crops was worth the work and time.

As the only black woman and one of a few women on site, amongst a sea of men on a construction site, Khloe worked extra hard to prove herself and dodge some unwanted attention. She wants to see more women on construction sites to demystify the stereotypes. It's a process but one she's steadfast on.

If there's any advice for someone entering into the field of horticulture she says anyone can get involved, as long as there's interest and a willingness to learn (which everyone should learn more about nature and how to care for plants). In 2021 Khloe wants to have her own gardening bed in a community garden and continue to work with her hands. There's still so much to learn!

After we spoke Khloe soon became the assistant gardener at New York Restoration Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to transforming non-utilized spaces in under-resourced communities into greener spaces in NYC.

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