Camilla Hammer ’06 was always an avid environmentalist, but never set out to work in urban farming. Now, at only 26 years old, she manages Battery Urban Farm, a one-acre educational farm located in the historic Battery in New York City. The farm hosts over 100 varieties of organically-grown produce, and educates hundreds of thousands of students and visitors each year, while donating the food they produce to local schools and food pantries.
After Middlesex, Camilla went to the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at NYU, where she studied environmental ethics, and focused on how our ethics inform our behavior toward the environment. During a study abroad program in India her junior year, she got a job working at a nearby farm, fell in love with it and never looked back: “I didn’t know what kind of job I wanted, but I knew I wanted to learn everything there was to learn about plants, especially ones we grow for food.”
After coming across an internship at the Battery Conservancy, Camilla decided to pursue farming full time, and was able to step into the role of farm manager and build the program from scratch. “I became interested in [farming] because of concerns about the environment, but the reason I continue to do this work is because of the magic of plants and the profound effect I’ve seen farm based education have.”
Reflecting on her time at Middlesex, Camilla identifies her roles as a student leader and an athlete as the most influential, although they don’t seem immediately relevant at first thought. “There were so many different ways a student could lead at Middlesex,” Camilla remembers, “whether it be Peer Support, Athletic Teams, or clubs. Though the activities I was involved in aren’t directly related to what I do now, having leadership opportunities at a young age was crucial for my confidence. I learned how to manage others, how to communicate and delegate, and how to set an example, all of which are really important skills in my role now.” Even her participation on the crew team, although brief, now seems a useful lesson for her current job. “I only rowed on the crew team for one season, but in that time I experienced how far I could push myself physically, and the true meaning of endurance.”
Camilla has certainly found her promise as an active educator and environmentalist, and a leader in urban farming. As advice to younger graduates, Camilla offers, “If you can't find the job or organization you are looking for, create it yourself - if the work you want to do is good, chances are there need to be more people doing it. It’s easy to get intimidated by the many different skills you need to start your own project or business, but ultimately the only way you’ll learn is by doing it. You may not be successful the first time, but you’ll learn much more than you will as an intern somewhere, and if nothing else, it will impress employers in the future.”