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Plants & Gardens Blog

BUGs Go Places

After a successful training program last fall, the very first class of certified Brooklyn Urban Gardeners (BUGs) is making a difference to community greening efforts throughout Brooklyn. “BUG gave me the tools, knowledge, and confidence to revitalize a community garden,” reports Erik Rosenberg, a certified BUG who spearheads the Crown Heights Youth Collective Garden. “It’s difficult work, but thanks to the BUG classes and my team community service project, I have a framework for how to approach soil, community assets…and other challenges as well.” Quite a few media outlets have been talking to recent BUG graduates about their experiences and work, including, City Critic, and brooklyntodaycom.

The BUG program, which launched at BBG last year, is an intensive ten-session “train-the-trainer” course. A series of interconnected workshops and hands-on site visits cover the basics of sustainable horticultural practices and how to advocate for the creation and protection of community green space. “The goal of this innovative, free program is that upon graduation, BUG students are ready to become part of a growing network of BBG community volunteers who extend the educational resources of BBG and mentor community greening efforts throughout Brooklyn,” says Robin Simmen, director of GreenBridge.

To achieve certification, each of the 15 BUG students completes the weekly required reading, approximately 35 hours of in-class coursework, team-project presentations, and 30 hours of project-based community service. In-class time is designed to meet the needs of working people and is scheduled for eight Thursday evenings (6–9 p.m.) and two Saturdays. Project team members, along with a staff mentor, devise a workable community service schedule.

BUG enrolls an intergenerational, multicultural mix of adults stemming from diverse economic and educational backgrounds who represent neighborhoods across Brooklyn. They bring with them varying levels of gardening expertise. Along with being taught by experts with professional experience, participants learn from and network with each other. Through their work together on team projects, many BUGs have formed what promise to be lifelong friendships. As Mirem Villamil, a certified BUG and now garden manager at Edible Schoolyard Brooklyn, put it, “When I came to my first BUG class, I thought, ‘This is my tribe!’”

The 2011 BUG course will run from September to mid-November. Among the topics to be covered are city soils, basic composting, growing food, water-wise gardening, asset-based community building, conflict resolution, gardening with native plants, and streetscape gardening. To apply to participate in this free course, visit

The deadline for applications is June 1. For more information, email [email protected], or call 718-623-7250.

Nina Browne is the community program manager at Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

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