Planting an Impact
Passionate about food and inspired to help confront the challenges of America’s food systems, Jessie Banhazl founded Green City Growers in 2008. Green City Growers is an agricultural service that transforms underutilized spaces into gardens and farms. From the roof of Fenway Park to a vacant school yard, Jessie and her staff quickly began turning once-barren spaces throughout the Boston area into thriving gardens that provide one of the most essential, yet often inaccessible necessities to the community: healthy food. As her business name grew, Jessie continued not to lose sight of prioritizing community impact. In addition to garden installation, Green City Growers provides educational and wellness programs, with audiences ranging from students to senior citizens.
Walking on Thin Ice
In March 2020, the United States was hit with an unparalleled challenge to its food system, posing both significant obstacles and an urgent need for Jessie and her team. The COVID-19 pandemic forced restaurants and other non-essential businesses to close their doors, leaving Jessie with a fraction of her usual business clients. “The stress level has completely increased. I’m not even sure yet what our financial losses will be.” The current financial instability of Green City Growers has led to insecurity throughout the business. “We’ve decided not to rehire several new positions so I’m doing three people’s jobs. It’s scary when you’re operating with so few people and on such thin ice.” In need of immediate financial relief, Accion provided Jessie with a deferment on her small business loan. “The deferment is a welcome reprieve that will help ease the stress of cash flow and ensure we can uphold payroll.”
Keeping the Community Fed
In a time when grocery store trips have become challenging and even unsafe for many, Jessie has seen an unprecedented need from homeowners. “People want to be growing their own food in their own homes.” With access to food, particularly healthy and fresh food, an even larger challenge than before, Jessie feels both a determination to continue filling that need and a deep gratitude for the recognition from her community. “Access to fresh produce is an important part of the fabric of our society. It’s been clear that people understand why the work we do is important and I’m very appreciative of that. This food is going to local food banks, to furloughed employees, to people in need. Our work is necessary to ensure that people can be fed.”
Jessie has also been inspired by the determination of her team and is prioritizing their needs as they continue to uphold Green City Growers’ mission. “Our staff are troopers. There’s a sense of resilience and a desire to ensure that we can keep doing this for everybody involved. They want to continue growing food for people and we’re going to provide a safe place for them to do so.”