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An Interview with Rie Macchiarolo, Design & Project Manager

How did you get into farming?

I grew up in rural Pennsylvania, surrounded by dairy farms. As a young queer person in rural “dairy land” Pennsylvania, I struggled to feel comfortable in a rural area that was very conservative. I believed that all farmers were conservative people. Then I started getting interested in cooperative living, and I spent two years living in an intentional community in rural Virginia on 450 acres of land with 100 people. That was my first introduction to farming. I learned about milking cows, sustainable farming, permaculture, and cooperative living. I loved working in the garden as one of my many jobs there. When I left there, I knew I wanted to learn more about sustainable agriculture and permaculture. I signed up for a permaculture intensive at a sustainable agriculture conference in Pennsylvania, and I knew immediately that I wanted to learn more. I wanted to design spaces for people in urban areas to grow as much food as possible. This led me to grad school where I learned more about landscape design, ecology, and plant communities, and now I am here, doing what I set out to do.

Why do you think what you are doing at Green City Growers is important?

As the Design and Project Manager, I meet with people who want to have gardens, assess their site to make sure that they have all the conditions to have a bountiful productive garden, give some recommendations, create estimates, and send proposals. Once people have decided they want to move ahead with a project, I help make sure the installation process goes as smoothly as possible. I do a lot of other things; I am responsible for one farming site, I manage all the perennial plant installations (like the one at Station Landing), I led the development and roll-out of using a new CRM software, and I manage the design of the sales documents.

My role tends to tie a lot of pieces and details together with a lot of project coordination. There are places where a lot of details can slip through the cracks which can lead to mistakes, client disappointment, obviously none of which we want to have. Because we are a smaller company, it is important for everyone to be paying attention to the details. Chris and I are the main contacts communicating with potential clients, so it is very important for us to know the client’s wants and needs, to be able to give them what they ask for during the project, proposal and installation processes.

We are a company that is driven by its mission. One of the things that I really like about Green City Growers is that we have a lot of core values about why we do what we do. All companies have a certain set of standards, but being a B Corporation, it requires an accreditation process that verifies that we are living up to our values and commitments.

What’s your favorite thing to grow?

My favorite annual vegetable is the Shishito pepper. I love their flavor, the shape of the plant, how prolific they grow on the bush. I’ve had a couple successful years in my own garden where I could have Shishito peppers for days and it’s just so fun. I have a lot of favorite perennial plants, and I get so excited about them—especially the ones native to this area. One of them is called Green and Gold (Chrysogonum virginianum), it’s just such a good hardy ground cover, and in the springtime, it has the most adorable star-shaped yellow flowers. You can divide it and share it with friends easily, it is tolerant of different soil types and sun and shade requirements, it grows fast, and it does a really great job of covering the ground in an unaggressive way.  That and the Barren Strawberries (Geum frageroides) are great ground covers. A lot of times those are the types of plants people want in their sites, and these are some of the few that are more friendly to the environment and people working on the site.

What is your favorite part of your day at work?

The thing that is the most satisfying is when I get to see a project from start to finish, be developed as smoothly as possible. Tied into that, I enjoy being a part of the planting process, seeing happy healthy successful plants do the things they are supposed to do. It takes such a coordinated effort, and often the process isn’t as smooth as we planned. The best outcome is when everything happens as we planned and hoped, the garden is successful, and the client is satisfied!

This interview was conducted by Jackie Nutter, GCG’s Fall 2019  intern. 

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