If anyone could be called a celebrity in the green industry, it would be Nick Cutsumpas. He has an Instagram following of 165,000 @FarmerNick and is one of the designers on the Netflix show “Instant Dream Home.” He is also the author of Plant Coach, a book that teaches people to care for their houseplants. His projects have been featured in The New York Times, Vogue and the Food Network. He is the go-to expert for Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness and lifestyle brand Goop.
Nick Cutsumpas, aka Farmer Nick
Nick is a part of the new generation of plant enthusiasts who have carved a unique path in the green industry. He does not have a degree in horticulture or landscape design, but he has learned by following his interests and passion.
While living in New York City, Nick discovered a love of indoor plants and learned to care for them through trial and error. Apartments in the city have their quirks—not enough space and not enough natural light—so he shared what he was learning about “urban gardening” through his Instagram account.
Like Nick, the generation of Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) was also discovering the joys of plant parenthood, whether they were bringing the outdoors into an urban apartment or choosing to fill their homes with plants instead of children.
Farmer Nick’s Instagram account grew quickly. People followed him to learn the ins and outs of caring for houseplants and how to choose the right ones for their homes. In 2020, when everyone was forced to stay home, green industry businesses boomed. More people were at home to take care of finicky plants, or they wanted to create outdoor spaces to enjoy. Nick’s career as a “plantrepreneur” took off from there.
“I started doing houseplant installations and then houseplant installations turned into terrace installations. Terrace installation started into rooftops, and rooftops turned into back yards,” he says. “Back yard (installations) became a much bigger thing than I had ever thought about.”
His client base expanded from city dwellers with limited space to companies wanting to add a green element to their stores in New York. Shoe company Allbirds hired Nick to install a plant display in their storefront windows. He built a flower wall for Whole Foods to celebrate their new store opening in the city.
West Coast homeowners wanted his help, too, but this brought a new challenge to the table: water restrictions. Nick worked with a client in California to create a design that would make the homeowners happy and use plants and materials that would thrive in a drought-prone environment.
He replaced the client’s turf grass lawn with succulents and a ground cover of sedum and aptenia so they could have the green space they wanted without worrying about traditional irrigation.
"Sustainability is not just about what we are not doing and conserving, but more so (asking) what we can add that benefits that ecosystem?"
Nick’s landscape design philosophy is based on three values: Working with the area to use materials and plants that reflect the environment; using native and pollinator-friendly plants with biodiversity in mind; and adding an edible plant element when possible. He tries to bring that ethos into every project and partners with people who share those values.
“The more we can go with an eco-design approach, it will not only be better for your business, it will be better for every aspect of the installation, the planet, the soil, whatever it might be,” Nick says. “So that is kind of how I’ve structured my business. I don’t bring anyone onto my team who does not share those values with me.”
Even though Nick found his career in landscape design by accident, he thinks more young people would be interested in the industry if they understood the positive impact they can make on the environment. Armed with his generation’s ideology and the power of social media, Gen Z is his next target.
“It has to be a conscious effort to inspire and to convince people that, ‘hey, this is not only needed, but it’s an industry where you can thrive and do really well,” he says.
"You can't leave the fate of our planet up to accidents"