When whimsy and opportunity collided, says Cara Chard ’03, she learned to keep bees on a Brooklyn rooftop. It was her introduction to the burgeoning world of urban agriculture.
“Opportunities that I hadn't previously known to exist presented themselves, and I took them,” she says. She ran a farm-based learning program in Brooklyn for three years and then became the first employee of City Growers. She’s now executive director at the nonprofit, which provides students with hands-on food and farm education on rooftop farms.
Chard’s job entails building the vision, programs, and business strategy for the organization that has served more than 10,000 students and added two employees. She says her philosophy major at Hamilton College prepared her well for the unexpected career.
“Philosophy teaches the critical thinking, public speaking, and writing skills necessary to become a leader in any field. The term ‘urban agriculture’ didn't exist in public discourse when I was at Hamilton, and I never could have planned or predicted my career trajectory,” she says. “I followed the things that interested me – philosophy, teaching, beekeeping – and they led me to an awesome job. I never boxed myself in.”
Early on after Hamilton, Chard worked as a paralegal and discovered she didn’t want to become a lawyer She then earned a master’s degree in education from New York University and taught high school English in the Bronx.