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News & Notes

Apprentice Alumni Spotlight: Jessica O'Callahan

Jessica O’Callahan’s experience as a Glynwood apprentice in 2013 was transformative and solidified her long-time desire to work with plants and food. Jessica had been working for a nonprofit dance company before coming to Glynwood, but had previously done some urban farming in NYC and deep-down knew she wanted to be a farmer. When she found out about Glynwood she knew it would be a tremendous experience. She recalls thinking “this is awesome—Glynwood offers housing, pay, education, a chance to experience both vegetable and livestock production, and is amazingly beautiful. I can’t pass this up.”

That first year of full-time farming was a reality check for body and mind, as it is for many. Jessica remembers her body adjusting to the hard work and schedule. “It was trying. Farming is hard on your body, and hard on your mind. It definitely expanded my mental capacity. The more you do it, the more you stretch those capabilities. Glynwood is where I first learned to do that.” Having a close-knit group of fellow apprentices helped with the transition to the hard work; the entire group got along well and remained in community with each other after the apprenticeship ended. 

After Jessica’s year at Glynwood she worked at Obercreek Farm where she started as Assistant Manager and then became Farm Manager. After four years at Obercreek, Jessica decided to head back to the city where she took a job at the Queens Botanical Garden. She envisioned it as a temporary position but then fell in love with horticulture. It expanded her whole world of plants outside of vegetables. She started paying more attention to plants all around her—trees on the street, plants in people’s front yards, etc. Jessica recently graduated from the New York Botanical Garden School of Professional Horticulture, and is now a full-time horticulturist at the Bayard Cutting Arboretum on Long Island. At the Arboretum she worked on a new conifer collection, building on an existing collection of trees that date back to 100+ years old. She is also working on all aspects of plant care, including weeding, mowing, mulching, and pruning. 

Jessica is planning to pursue arborist certification and wants to incorporate ecological gardening. She is interested in designing ecological garden systems that are beneficial to insects and birds, and also beautiful for people.