Taproot Collective's First Market Farm

Project Overview

Totaling approximately 1⁄4 acre of vacant land directly across from the Rochester Public Market, First Market Farm is a community homestead will serve as a long term food production engine capable of supplying community members with food plant starts for home gardens every spring and fresh local produce throughout the year. First Market Farm will also function as a living classroom available for educational programs run by Taproot Collective as well as the Rochester Public Market, Flower City Pickers, the Marketview Heights Neighborhood Association and other partnering organizations committed to improving the health of our community and local food system. The homestead’s shear proximity to the Rochester Public Market will ensure easy access and visibility to the thousands of Rochestarians that visit each year, including the 8,000 individuals that use SNAP benefits at the market.

In this first growing season at First Market Farm and with direct support from the Seed Grant, programs and services will focus on families facing food insecurity that actively use SNAP benefits at the Rochester Public Market or receive emergency food from organizations in Flower City Pickers’ distribution network. As a new growing and instructional site, First Market Farm will require some significant infrastructure investments that will allow it to function as a long-term food production site and educational resource. Over the years to come, First Market Farm will offer this large group of individuals and families with opportunities to learn about and engage with home gardening and take advantage of its long-lasting financial and health benefits.

Taproot Collective is actively searching for community volunteers and youth leaders to continue to foster First Market Farm’s growth and expansion. If you are interested in learning more about the project or becoming involved, visit Taproot's Facebook page or email us at info@taprootcollective.org.

Property's History


Built in the 1880's, the house once located on 100 Pennsylvania was demolished in 1978. It is not clear when the 110’ by 40’ parcel was incorporated into the 20 First St. parcel, but it is now one large L-shaped city lot. This residential lot offers a unique opportunity to serve as a model urban homestead and living classroom that demonstrates the impact regenerative ecological design has on community-owned land, housing, food systems. The design of the growing space makes explicit use of permaculture principles that care for the planet, people, and fair distribution. The overall design of the space includes raised beds, compost systems, water catchment, a greenhouse, universally-designed beds and paths, and perennial and annual vegetables, flowers, herbs, and fruit. As the main site for youth employment programming, the growing space at First Market Farm can teach the next generation of community leaders a broad array of growing and community engagement practices necessary for vibrant urban communities to develop and thrive.


The classic folk victorian house at 20 First St. was built in 1872 by the Beihe family, originally from Germany. We know little about the Beihe’s but we do know that by 1900, a young German couple, Jacob and Minnie Blaesi were living in the home. Minnie died at home, after giving birth to their daughter in 1900. Her daughter passed away a few weeks later and Jacob took his surviving son and moved out of the house shortly thereafter.

Two other German families lived in the house for a period of time, but by 1922, the Prizzi family had moved in. From Sicily, the large family would own the house for many years to come. In 1930, they divided the house into two apartments. There’s evidence that the family expanded over the years and lived in other homes on First Street, but they continued to own the house and some of their family members likely still lived in the front apartment.

The housed passed through marriage to the Gambo and Alu families over the years. It is evident from the family photos, old receipts, materials and equipment found in the house, that 20 First Street residents have been economically engaged with the Public market since it opened at the current site in 1905. The Gambos and Prizzi's worked for fruit and meat wholesalers at the market.

The Alu’s were the last residents of the house and were living in the home by about 1950. Their large family, also Sicilian, appears to be related to the Prizzis. Sam Alu, a WWII veteran, lived in the house for much of his life, with a big white cadillac parked in the driveway. His companion lived in the rear apartment and he lived in the front apartment. For the last several years of his life, Sam had a hard time taking care of the house and large yard, and in 2012 or 2013, he moved into a VA nursing home. He passed away in early 2014 and the city forclosed on the vacant house in 2015. The owner that bought it in the 2015 tax auction held the property without paying taxes or doing repairs for 2 years, allowing it to be placed on the city’s demolition list.

Hoping to save the house, Greg Shear and Amber Powers purchased it in late October and gave Taproot Collective permanent, free use of the large attached lot. The house is currently being rehabbed and Amber and Greg hope to have a certificate of occupancy awarded by late fall of 2018.