Botany and NYC as an Ecosystem
Uli has been a curator of native plants at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden since 2004, where he’s also taught courses like soil science and plant identification. As a horticulturist whose ruling passion is native flora, Uli imparts a unique perspective to his Farm School NYC students.
Although he was trained in the traditional teacher-centered classroom, he has purposely adapted his teaching style to Farm School’s philosophy of learning. “The student-centered approach was new to me,” he says. “At first I didn’t understand its merits, but now I’m learning just as much from my students as they’re learning from me, and I think that’s a really fantastic aspect of it.”
Uli thinks Farm School creates an opportunity for people to become empowered, then go back out to their communities and really make a change for the better. He believes that one aspect of this change would be incorporating native plants into all kinds of places. “For example, a rooftop farm could include a buffer strip of native wildflowers to encourage beneficial insects and pollinators, not just honey bees,” he says. He points out that looking to nature can help solve some of the environmental issues confronting humans, like securing our food system and creating livable cities.
Uli sometimes indulges himself by going foraging. He knows where and when to get the best blueberries in New Jersey. Always the teacher, he stresses that an ethical forager leaves plenty for the plant to propagate and for the birds and animals to eat, but notes there’s always still enough for him and his Farm School NYC students.