Taproot Collective's First Market Farm

Project Overview

Located on previously abandoned property at 20 First St. in Marketview Heights, First Market Farm (FMF) is a vibrant community farmstead and living model for neighborhoods that engages youth and families in every stage of the food system. FMF regenerates underutilized urban land and housing to enhance community-based food production, employ youth, and address residential environmental justice issues in Rochester, NY. The homestead’s shear proximity to the Rochester Public Market ensures easy access and visibility for the thousands of Rochestarians that visit each year, including the 8,000 individuals that use SNAP benefits at the Market.

Growing Sace

First Market Farm is built on a vacant lot that once held a single-family home at 100 Pennsylvania Ave. After the house was demolished in 1978, the 110’ by 40’ parcel was incorporated into the 20 First St. parcel and is now a ¼ acre L-shaped city lot. The design of First Market Farm makes explicit use of permaculture principles that care for the planet, people, and fair distribution. The overall design of the space includes raised and universally designed beds and paths, compost systems, rainwater catchment, a full season greenhouse, a beehive, and perennial and annual vegetables, flowers, herbs, and fruit.

In 2018, Taproot Collective was awarded a Seed Grant from Foodlink to provide the foundation of the farm’s installation and community engagement efforts. Since breaking ground in April and through September 2018, FMF generated over 1,000 pounds of produce distributed to neighborhood pantries through Foodlink’s network and to surrounding neighbors.

In 2019, Taproot Collective is expanding on the homestead’s inaugural growing season by offering year-round youth employment opportunities, youth-led gardening and cooking classes, and food distribution thanks to the Greater Rochester Health Foundation’s Community Health Grant and individual donations.

As the main site for youth employment programming and community education, 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 House

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.

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 October 2016 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 winter 2019.