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An Interview with Eric Dawson, Farmer and Educator

How did you get into farming?

When I was a kid, I used to garden with my dad in the side yard next to our house. I remember we would grow tomatoes, cucumbers, kale. As I got older, life got busier and I didn’t have as much time to garden, and I eventually sort of lost touch with it. Then, when I attended Connecticut College, I started working for their Office of Sustainability. That’s how I heard about the school’s organic garden called Sprout. I started working there in my sophomore year as one of the managers. Since then, my passion for farming has really of taken off.

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

It’s essential to get kids interested from a young age in growing their own food and learning where their food comes from, because a lot of the stuff you see in grocery stores has been shipped from thousands of miles away. That means it loses its nutritional value along the way, produces a larger carbon footprint, and doesn’t contribute to the local economy. As a farmer, I help people to grow their own food in their own homes, schools, offices, and other spaces – hyper-local. That increases nutrition, keeps people healthy, and gives them more of a direct connection to their food by knowing where and how it was grown and being themselves a part of nature’s process. Urban farming also gives people a greater appreciation for the natural environment and the vital services that it provides us. It helps them understand the importance of preserving the natural landscape even in an often dense, urban area. We are creating beautiful places in communities that might not necessarily have them. I feel like I am beautifying and improving the community wherever I go in my work, which I love.

What is your favorite part of your day at work?

I really like working with the kids and in corporate wellness sites; being able to talk and sort of teach people about the things that I’m passionate about, which are plants and gardening. I love being able to go out and connect with such a diverse group of people, many of whom might not have the opportunity to experience this otherwise. For example, I lead a garden program at Pine Street Inn, which provides services to homeless and formerly homeless men and women. For many of them, gardening is a completely new experience and it’s amazing to see them become so immersed and so dedicated. I’ve come to recognize that caring for a garden can also be a way of caring for one’s self. It’s extremely inspiring to see first-hand how our programs help lift people up.

What’s your favorite thing to grow?

In my own garden, I really like to grow lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes. We eat a lot of salads at my house, so anything to make a nice tasty salad. At work, I like growing zucchini because they get so massive. Potatoes are really fun too, especially in education programs because kids love to harvest them and pull them up out of the ground.

This interview was conducted by Sasha Rosenthal, GCG’s Summer 2019 intern. 

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