Charmaine Craig
Knox, Inc.
Hartford, CT
“The soil is so important. We stand on it. We eat from it. We have to care for it, respect it and nurture it.”

Charmaine Craig has been dubbed “Hartford’s Tree Lady” by the city’s mayor – and rightly so. Through her work with Knox, Inc., she oversees the planting of 1,000 trees each year in Connecticut’s capital city. After 20 years, she expects 20,000 new trees will be planted.

“I am so happy the city is taking forestry seriously,” said Craig, who also manages the organization’s 14 community gardens across more than 12 acres of urban neighborhoods. Over 300 families experience the benefits of “Hartford Grown” produce.

As community outreach director, she works with local residents, businesses, and government to build greener, stronger, healthier, and more sustainable neighborhoods. Craig is able to do this with help from the Knox team and more than 2,000 volunteers, many who replenish and nurture Hartford’s urban forest.

Trees are critical in communities, according to Craig, because they reduce the ill effects of carbon dioxide, sustain wildlife, provide shelter and shade, and increase land value. Hartford lost many of its trees in the recent storms, and Knox set out to replace them with help from public and private partners.

Cultivating the land is part of Craig’s Jamaican roots. She worked on her grandfather’s farm as a young girl, planting potatoes and carrots. Now she teaches urban youth, immigrants, and adults how to restore themselves; and strengthen their communities through gardening and environmental stewardship. Her goal is to introduce gardening to those who need a boost in their spirits.

“I hope to lift that cloud that many of them are under. Get them off the stoop and invite them into the garden,” she said.

Craig believes everything begins with the soil. “The soil is so important. We stand on it. We eat from it. We have to care for it, respect it and nurture it.”

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“eating a fresh tomato picked off the vine”

Sustainable Fact: Trees filter airborne pollutants and reduce the conditions that cause asthma and other respiratory problems.*

* American Lung Association. 1997. Childhood Asthma: A Matter of Control. Pamphlet