Tony Hillery is the Founder and Executive Director of Harlem Grown. Tony founded Harlem Grown in 2011 to address the health and academic challenges facing public elementary school students in Harlem.
Prior to starting Harlem Grown, Tony owned and managed the limousine business TZR Transportation, a ground transportation service catering to the entertainment industry. Having worked in the fast-paced, profit-driven industry, Tony found himself wanting to give back to his community in New York City. Tony had also experienced personal challenges growing up and wanted to mentor youth as they become young adults, teaching them to take care of themselves and our planet.
In 2011, Tony had been volunteering with a local elementary school and was witnessing first-hand the lack of resources allocated to the schools, the student’s poor nutrition, and how it effected their overall ability to do well in school. While volunteering, Tony noticed an abandoned community garden across the street from the school: students called it “the haunted garden”. A dumping ground and haven for drug users and alcoholics, the garden was completely overrun. Tony rallied volunteers and raised the funds needed to transform the lot into a thriving urban garden, kicking off Harlem Grown’s first-ever growing season.
During the first year, Tony worked with 400 students to plant 400 seedlings. They grew 20 pounds of produce. More importantly, he watched as students transformed their eating habits and improved their overall behavior and confidence simply by stewarding their own community farm.
Since then, Harlem Grown has continued to expand to serve over 2,500 students per year while growing and providing over 2,000lbs of fruits and vegetables to children and families in Harlem in 2015. This year Harlem Grown will open a brand new farm on 127th Street to continue reach more youth in Harlem and inspire them to live healthy and ambitious lives. Tony continues to inspire youth and adults alike through his work at Harlem Grown.