Updated: Feb 1
Committed to raising awareness of sustainable urban farming while providing vulnerable communities access to healthy food.
“It shouldn’t be a privilege to have access to healthy food.” - Yemi Amu
Yemi Amu, originally from Nigeria, started Oko farms, NYC’s first and only publicly accessible out door aquaponics farm and education center. Passionate about merging education and environmental stewardship, Yemi is dedicated to increasing food security and promoting food cultivation practices. Oko Farms' mission is to practice and promote aquaponics as a sustainable farming method that mitigates the impact of climate change, saves water, and increases food security for New York City. By spreading the knowledge required to practice aquaponics farming, her organization educates children and adults of all racial and socio-economic backgrounds. Her goal is to continue this essential work to provide healthy, tasty and fair food to vulnerable communities in New York City.
Welcome Yemi to Chefs for Impact!
By Yemi Amu as told to Chefs for Impact
What brought you to become a farmer?
“I’ve always wanted to farm but I didn’t think I could do it as a profession. I started as culinary and nutrition educator where I realized that for a lot of my clients, coming from low income household, healthy food was seen as a special thing. Where I come from - Nigeria - poor people eat vegetables. There is nothing special about it, it’s common and everyone can eat it. Here, in the US it’s different. So, I started wondering how I could make it feel normal to them? Together with the social workers I work with, we thought gardening would be a great way to connect these people to food. By learning how to grow produce, it would demystify their perception. I started growing food because I wanted to teach my clients how to do it for themselves. “
What do you do with the food you grow at Oko Farms?
“We sell the majority of the produce at the farm and at the farmers market. We do food donations and we incorporate some into our culinary workshops.”
How do you use your experience to mentor the new generation?
“We built partnerships with schools so the kids can visit the farm from April to early December. We usually walk them around the farm and do tastings. From January through April we go to schools where we set up small aquaponic systems. The students can raise goldfish and salad medley that they can harvest and eat. Unfortunately, Covid prevented us from doing the cooking classes this year.
Very often, people are confused when it comes to produce that they don’t know. If they don’t know what to do with something, they will stay away from it. We see culinary education as a way to encourage people to purchase the produce and feel comfortable trying new things.”
Why did you opt for aquaponics instead of soil?
“I was attracted to aquaponics initially because it saves water – and also you don’t have to water! The waste from the fish that is the fertilizer that helps the plants grow. Plants are serving as a filtration for the fish water so you’re recycling the water. Being able to produce fish in the city is pretty cool. It’s fun to do a kids’ workshop and cook fish tacos with them. I wanted to show people that you could raise your own fish and vegetables in a relatively small environment.”
Could aquaponics be one of the faces of the future of food?
“Hydroponics and aquaponics aren’t going to replace soil but they are going to play a major part. More people will be embracing the idea of growing food for themselves now. Climate change is also going to cause people to start shifting towards growing food without needing a lot of water. By recycling water over and over again, Aquaponics is certainly one of the solutions to sustainable farming.”
Learn more, go visit and support Oko farms: https://www.okofarms.org