Meet The Model-Turned-Activist Who Cares For 500 Plants In Her NYC Apartment [Photos]

“I think that the only way I've really been able to survive in New York is by surrounding myself with plants," says the activist, entrepreneur, model, and gardener.

Credit: Aliza Eliazarov via Modern Farmer

Credit: Aliza Eliazarov via Modern Farmer


Meet Summer Rayne Oakes, a “model-turned-sustainable-clothing-activist-turned-sustainable-food-movement-activist” who is based in New York City and is inspiring the world with her diverse and unique offerings. Not only did Oakes model, she received her environmental science degree, recently wrote a book, presently heads up marketing for Foodstand, which aims to “connect a community of good eaters,” and launched a service to connect designers with sustainable fabrics.

Yes, Oakes is one of the few Renaissance women in this age. But, it’s not her ethical pursuits that have gained her recent attention, it’s the 1,200 square-foot apartment in NYC that she’s lived in for the past eleven years.

Growing plants in an apartment can be a difficult task, but Oakes makes it look easy. From an irrigated vertical garden constructed out of mason jars and edible plants to a closet garden and even a living wall, the intriguing activist cares for 500 plants in her abode.

She told Modern Farmer: 

“I think that the only way I’ve really been able to survive in New York is by surrounding myself with plants.”

This is because she grew up on five acres of land in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, alongside chickens, goats, and an orchard. The limitations of living in an urban environment and gardening have been a challenge, but she’s overcome them with ingenuity. She says:

“I’m lucky that I have windows on both sides of my house, one south-facing, which gets a lot of light, and one north-facing. In the windows is where I have more of the light-necessary plants, like ivy, which I can’t eat, and herbs.”

Credit: Aliza Eliazarov via Modern Farmer

Credit: Aliza Eliazarov via Modern Farmer

The eco-conscious consumer has done her best to make her apartment as green as possible. A vermiculture kit is situated beneath the sink, a compost bin catches all scraps, and both an LED lighting system and a sub-irrigation system for plants have been installed.

“I think my ultimate goal is to, like, homestead in Brooklyn,” she says. “But I might have to move to a different place because I don’t know if my landlord would take to bees on the roof or chickens.”

Following are some incredible photos of the model-turned-activist’s apartment which is overflowing with various kinds of plants:

Credit: Aliza Eliazarov via Modern Farmer

Credit: Aliza Eliazarov via Modern Farmer

Watering the plants takes “about a half an hour every day, which I view as more of a meditative experience,” Oakes says. “And then once a week I probably spend a good hour, hour and a half doing composting, clipping back, that kind of stuff.”

Credit: Aliza Eliazarov via Modern Farmer

Credit: Aliza Eliazarov via Modern Farmer

Credit: Aliza Eliazarov via Modern Farmer

Credit: Aliza Eliazarov via Modern Farmer

Credit: Aliza Eliazarov via Modern Farmer

Credit: Aliza Eliazarov via Modern Farmer

“I have over 500 plants,” says Oakes. “Will I get more? It really depends on whether I can fit them.”

Credit: Aliza Eliazarov via Modern Farmer

Credit: Aliza Eliazarov via Modern Farmer

Credit: Aliza Eliazarov via Modern Farmer

Credit: Aliza Eliazarov via Modern Farmer

Anything that can be used to house a plant is, like these recycled tea tins.

Credit: Aliza Eliazarov via Modern Farmer

Credit: Aliza Eliazarov via Modern Farmer

Credit: Aliza Eliazarov via Modern Farmer

Credit: Aliza Eliazarov via Modern Farmer

Credit: Aliza Eliazarov via Modern Farmer

Credit: Aliza Eliazarov via Modern Farmer

Miniature Greenhouses

Credit: Aliza Eliazarov via Modern Farmer

Credit: Aliza Eliazarov via Modern Farmer

Credit: Aliza Eliazarov via Modern Farmer

Credit: Aliza Eliazarov via Modern Farmer

“Obviously sometimes it’s for the novelty rather than ‘oh, I’m going to eat for the week,’” says Oakes, but some of her plants, especially the herbs and greens, produce enough for her needs.

Credit: Aliza Eliazarov via Modern Farmer

Credit: Aliza Eliazarov via Modern Farmer

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