LittleAfrica News’ Founder and Publisher Mona Davids recently interviewed Qiana Mickie who serves as the Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Urban Agriculture (MOUA). The MOUA is a new office that was established in September 2022.
At the announcement of the launch of the Mayor’s Office of Urban Agriculture and the appointment of Mickie, Mayor Adams said, “Making our cityscape greener isn’t just a slogan — it’s a centerpiece of our agenda.” He continued, “Urban agriculture is a growing industry in our city that has the potential to expand the supply of healthy and locally grown food, create jobs, and make our city more resilient. Qiana brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to this role, and as director of the new Office of Urban Agriculture, she will play an integral role in advancing my food and sustainability agenda.”
Mickie describes herself as a long-standing worker and activist in food and agriculture. Before she assumed her position as Executive Director of the MOUA, she ran Just Food, a non-profit organization. She also highlights her policy work from the city to the international level. “One of the reasons why he appointed me in this office is because he knew my background in agriculture, equity, and environmental justice, I would be able to hit the ground running, to build an office like this,” Mickie said as she explained why Mayor Eric Adams picked her for the job.
Mickie’s job will largely focus on urban agriculture and efforts to allow the field to grow in New York City. She emphasized that she wants New Yorkers to be aware of her office and the work it does. The mandate of her office includes ensuring New Yorkers are aware of the green, agricultural spaces that are in their vicinity. This includes informing and allowing those who participate in urban agriculture access to more land. She wants to see New Yorkers look around them and see the underutilized land in their neighborhoods that can be used for urban agriculture.
Mickie believes that urban agriculture can be a driver for equity. She shared all the benefits she sees urban agriculture bringing to the city. This includes creating economic activity from urban agriculture. Successful urban agriculture projects create jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities. The development of agriculture in the city would increase local access to and production of fresh food. Mickie highlighted how the proper implementation of her office’s mandate would reduce the city’s contribution to the climate crisis by improving the quality of the water, air, and soil. This would be beneficial to all New Yorkers.
New York City is often described as a concrete jungle, a place where the idea of urban agriculture appears to be out of place. However, Mickie said that the city has supported urban agriculture for years. She highlighted how there are community gardens all around the city but people rarely notice them. “Folks are not probably as familiar with even the 550 plus community gardens under Green Thumbs, our network of community gardens in the five boroughs. Some people walk by them and don’t even notice,” she said. She went on to say that some of the best work in urban agriculture in New York City is found in the Bronx. In the interview, she specifically mentioned the work and progress of the New Roots Community Garden in the Bronx. A lot of the community gardens in the city are managed by volunteers and land stewards.
One of the facts Mickie kept on repeating throughout the exclusive interview was that a significant number of people in urban agriculture are Black and/or Indigenous. For her, this is culturally significant as it speaks to the fruits and vegetables that are used within the community. This segued into her pointing out that as much as urban agriculturalists operated in their own territory, a network with other agriculturalists and farmers outside urban areas was necessary. “I think it’s important for New Yorkers to know that, while New York City is full of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, land stewards and farmers that grow in our community gardens and urban farms, that we also have farmers that are within driving distance or within a hundred to 200 to 400 miles of the city, that grow food and bring it down to the city,” she said.
Mickie gave the example of Kama Doucoure who co-founded and operates the Soumppou Kaffo or the Big Dream farm. “Kamo is really a farmer that is urban in terms of where he lives but is growing rurally. He understands scale, he understands seasonality and he understands what his family wants to eat,” she said. She pointed out how urban farmers working with rural farmers could give the latter an opportunity to sell their produce in urban areas at farmers’ markets.
As the executive director of her office, Mickie insinuated that she would work with New York City Public Schools to figure out a way to get the students in the public school system to learn about urban agriculture. “I’m energized to work with my fellow agencies such as the Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice and, along with the mayor, to further integrate urban agriculture, climate resiliency, and equity into the fabric of our great city and food system,” she said at the time she was unveiled as the head of the MOUA.