How BUG Changed My Life

by Ryan Watson on

This time last year, I was sitting at a desk in an overly air conditioned office building in downtown Manhattan. Most of my day was spent behind a computer screen, making copies, and answering phone calls. I knew spending eight hours a day behind a desk was not for me and that there must be a more fulfilling option out there. I always knew that I wanted a career focused on urban greening, but had no idea where to start. Fortunately, after many hours searching online, I found a light at the end of the tunnel–a free 10-week course called the Brooklyn Urban Gardener (BUG) program. Greenbridge, the community horticulture department of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, offers the BUG program annually in the fall. BUG helped me discover a path that led me to start doing the kind of work I knew I wanted to do.

2013 Ryan Watson. “What to Compost” Sign and Food Scraps at PS8 Cafeteria

About GreenBridge and BUG
Full disclosure: As a result of my participation in the BUG I program, I currently work for Greenbridge. Greenbridge developed the BUG program in part because they were receiving such a constant flow of community gardens, schools, and not-for-profit organizations requesting outside assistance in developing greening projects throughout the borough. However, Greenbridge staff had limited time to devote to such requests. The BUG program serves as a means of expanding BBG’s impact on community greening outside its gates.

BUG is a “train-the-trainer” course designed to develop community horticultural leaders throughout Brooklyn. Class sessions are scheduled primarily on weekday evenings to accommodate the demanding schedules of working individuals. An essential aspect of the program is the 30 hours dedicated to the community volunteer project. Each year, BUG students are organized into teams of five and are then assigned to complete volunteer projects throughout Brooklyn. In 2011, a BUG team project involved the creation of PS34’s garden and yielded the school’s Young Environmentalist Club.

Hands-on community work
My BUG team’s volunteer project was to assist with the revamp of PS8’s school gardening program. Over the course of the year, my BUG team:

BUG resources
In addition to the 40 hours of classroom training and the direct hands-on the experience of working with a volunteer project, the BUG program also connects students to the myriad of resources available through BBG. Most notably, access to the amazingly helpful resource library, free admission to the garden, a vast network of horticultural stewards, and an elaborately comprehensive manual that provides the answer (or place to turn for one) to nearly every challenge faced in tackling community greening in Brooklyn.

As a result of my experience in the BUG program, my life has forever been shifted. I have developed a significant network of community greening resources, and more importantly, the confidence, skills and tools necessary to make a more direct impact on community greening throughout Brooklyn.

Apply to the BUG Program!
Fill out the application and email it to The deadline for applications is June 8th. Who knows, it just might change your life too.

Ryan Watson

Ryan Watson

Originally from Los Angeles, Ryan is a relatively new but very proud resident of Greenpoint. He was drawn to Greenpoint by the strong sense of community and history of local activism. Ryan can be found at North Brooklyn Farms, the urban farm at the Domino Sugar Factory, which he co-founded or working in the 61 Franklin Street Community Garden.
  • gayle commented:

    Soooooooooooooooo proud of you!!!!!!
    Hugs, G


  • Garret commented:

    Inspiring, Ryan. If we weren’t expecting our 2nd child in September, I might just apply! Maybe in 2014.


    • Ryan Watson

      Ryan Watson commented:

      Thanks Garret! It’ll definitely be around next year and gets better every year! I definitely encourage you to apply (if having an infant isn’t too much as well!).