Greentopia: Rochester's Greenspace Nonprofit
by Jake W Streamer | published Nov. 1st, 2023
Greentopia is a Rochester-based non-profit organization dedicated to urban youth workforce development. Since 2011, Greentopia has helped create over one hundred trained, employable adults from high-risk demographics within Rochester.
The organization’s primary goal is to identify young adults with little work experience or marketable skills and offer them job experience, training, certifications, education and potentially management experience.
Greentopia operates out of two main locations in Rochester: a small field in a residential community off the corner of Whitney St and Smith St, and another further North on Joseph Avenue.
Prospective participants, regardless of experience, enter a program spanning roughly 10 months. Most of their time will be spent maintaining flower beds growing in-season flora, which is then made into bouquets and sold at several locations including the Rochester Public Market.
Morgan Barry, director of the Green Visions Workforce Development program, has been working with the organization since its founding in 2011. “...we're trying to alleviate the stress of fundraising by selling products that we’re able to make in house,” he explains.
Greentopia’s Whitney Street campus is situated in an area typically considered to be an underserved and sometimes dangerous area of the city frequently patrolled by police. Despite the location, Barry maintains that the operation is “not impacted” by these circumstances.
In 2013, Greentopia, under their legally constituted name Gardenaerial, purchased the long abandoned
Recent posts on Greentopia’s website, greentopia.org, suggest that city officials have included the organization in planning the recent ROC The Riverway program, a municipal effort to revitalize dozens of properties along the Genesee River.
Ten years later in September of 2023, Greentopia posted to their website that New York State has announced plans for the zoning of a new urban state park in the area, partially on the site of the long-abandoned plant.
As with any nonprofit, overhead and funding is a constant challenge, especially concerning local and state grants.
“[Rochester’s] got a million nonprofits and we're all scratching for the same money,” Barry said. “...for us, we're just trying to meet the needs of the neighborhood and…do good work.”
For now though, according to Barry, Greentopia seems to stay on top of overhead costs and fundraising.
“When people will say to [Greentopia] … ‘what do you need?’ We don't need anything, our kids need stuff … Our kids need support.”
Greentopia can be found selling their custom-made bouquets at the Rochester Public Market. To learn more about Greentopia or to donate, visit their website at greentopia.org.