Tony Hillery

Founder & Executive Director
Harlem Grown

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.


  • How 400 Students and a Haunted Garden Built the Latest CNN Hero

    If you flicked to CNN this past weekend, you might have seen a familiar-looking guy. If you don’t know, now you know: It was Tony Hillery! Tony was named this week’s CNN Hero. Tony Hillery speaking at the Change Food Fest 2016. A dear friend of Change Food from the start, you’re sure to have heard […]

  • Growing Food, Growing Healthy Communities

    At one point during Tuesday’s panel on “Growing Food, Growing Healthy Communities,” Steve Ritz told the audience, “No one in this room will go broke giving love.” Now, you could argue Steve, founder of The Green Bronx Machine, is not a financial advisor. Well, there was a time not long ago when you wouldn’t have […]

  • Community Change at Harlem Grown: From the Ground Up | Tony Hillery | Change Food Fest

    Change Food

    Tony Hillery, founder and director of Harlem Grown, shares the story of Harlem Grown and the community that they serve. The empty lot turned urban garden across the street from the first school they served, proved that if a kid plants it, they will eat it. The garden grew 38 pounds of produce the first […]