The Constant Gardener - UN Food Garden Volunteer

Thu, 06/07/17

Michael Jenkins is no stranger to getting his hands dirty. Growing up in rural New Zealand, he took part in growing his own food from an early age, planting his first garden of radishes at four years old. During school vacations, he also worked on a large cucumber farm (resulting in a lifelong aversion to the vegetable). 

Decades later, while stationed in South Sudan, where fresh food was not easy to come by, he planted his own food garden. Despite the harsh climate conditions, he was able to successfully grow chilies, bananas, and Italian lettuces, inspiring others to follow suit. 

Not long after arriving in New York to serve as head nurse of the Medical Services Division, Michael happened to walk past the recently established UN Food Gardens. He noticed that the tomatoes had not been tied up properly, and realised that the garden could use his expertise. Thus began his involvement with the UN Food Gardens initiative, a project to which he has dedicated himself for the past three years. 

“The garden is a showcase of what is possible in a harsh urban environment - that you can grow a variety of delicious crops sustainably and using natural processes. It also brings staff together from across the organization and provides a space to relax and learn about growing the food we eat,” said Michael. “People who have never before grown or cared for food plants can learn hands-on.” 

The UN Food Gardens is an initiative of the UNSRC (UN Staff Recreation Council) Gardening Club and is run entirely by staff volunteers. Established in May 2015, and officially inaugurated on Mandela Day later that summer, the garden is now in its third growing season. 

All staff and grounds pass holders in New York are welcome to volunteer in the garden, whether it is planting, watering, weeding, tending the compost, or helping out with outreach activities, fundraising, and events. The club is a friendly, informal group with a wide range of skills - all are welcome! 

The UN Food Gardens are located in the satellite dish area of the Secretariat Building in New York. More information can be found at

This article was originally posted on iSeek. Article and photos courtesy of Elena de Jesus.

Categories: Buildings, Staff Engagement