Pancho Ramos, East Village Farmer
posted: February 23, 2009

This is part of an ongoing series of profiles of people who grow edibles in New York City.

Between NYU swallowing the neighborhood like The Blob and mid level Wall Streeters spending their bonuses on buying up what used to be run down tenement apartments, the East Village is a pale shadow of what it once was. But it isn't the Upper East Side quite yet.

There remain some pockets that are thoroughly urban and emphatically New York, and one of them can be found on Avenue C, where Pancho Ramos is known as The Farmer.

"I've had this vegetable garden for 15 years at the 9th Street Community Garden.

"When I was a boy in Puerto Rico, my father grew plantains, bananas and tobacco. My family always had a farm: my grandfather, my father, my uncles. We all worked on the farm.

"I came here in 1959, and I've always lived in the East Village. I started on 11th Street, and I moved up and now I'm on 12th Street.

"How I started was that my friend Linda worked in the Garden here and then my wife did and then I came. And I like it so much!

"I retired 8 years ago from my job; I worked in the kitchen at the hospital. The first months after I retired, I missed it; I'd wake up at 4 o'clock in the morning, and I'd miss my people. But now? No, I don't miss it. But I still wake up every morning at 4 o'clock and I can't sleep no more. So I just stay in bed, and then at 6 o'clock I get up, I make some coffee, watch some TV, and then I come over here to work on the Garden. After a couple of hours, I go home, have some lunch, and then come back to work some more. It's nice!

"I grow tomatoes, green pepper, beans, collard greens, carrots, cabbage, cucumber, corn, and lettuce. I grow almost everything!

"I work 3 or 4 days a week in the Garden and I also like to do the carpentry projects; I made some of the wooden houses where we keep the tools and gazebos.

"I eat the vegetables, and I give them to my friends. Sometimes I take a big basket of vegetables from the garden, and by the time I get home, I only have two or three -- everybody wants to take some!

"My children, they're grown, but they never cared about the Garden. When children are born here, they don't like to get their hands dirty! But I don't mind the sun and the hot -- when you like something, you don't mind the hot.

"I begin planting in May, but it really depends on the weather. And it goes till September. And then I miss it in the winter. It's my life!"