Here's what most people in Minnesota and Nebraska and Idaho don't know and would never suspect about New York City: we are a farming town.
Yes, you heard that right. New York (as in the Big Apple, the Empire State Building, the Naked Cowboy, and Times Square) is a place where local farming thrives and is cherished. And no, we're not referring to those window boxes on our fire escapes filled with mint (though they're a great source of happiness during mojito season). We're talking about real farms with real sustenance, just steps away from subway stops and warehouses and vendors peddling authentic "Folex" watches. A source of food for many families, food shelves, and restaurants in the city, as well as a place to learn about agriculture, food politics, and history for the locals, these farms are as much a part of our town as the Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty – and even more vital to our survival. Below, our top three New York City farms, all of which practice sustainable growing techniques, distribute locally, and do other amazing things that make us proud.
Queens County Farm Museum 73-50 Little Neck Parkway Floral Park, NY 11004-1129 718-347-3276 With a history dating back to 1697, the Queens County Farm Museum sits on New York City's largest remaining tract of undisturbed farmland, and is the longest continually run farm in the whole state. Dedicated to both environmental and historical preservation, the farm practices crop rotation, companion planting, and cover cropping (as opposed to chemical insecticide and fertilizer use). Additionally, being the only New York City farm with livestock, they've developed pasture-based management systems and a composting program. As for their distribution practices, the Queens Farm sells primarily on site, but also ships honey, eggs, herbs, and vegetables up to (but no more than) 15 miles away. Overflow donations to City Harvest ensure that nothing goes to waste; while seasonal festivals, workshops, and history-based food events ensure that the community has the opportunity to learn and be involved. Oh, and one last thing: did we mention they have anAmazing Maize Maze every fall? That's right. An enormous maze made out of corn. Welcome to New York City.
Wyckoff Farm 5816 Clarendon Road Brooklyn, NY 11203 718-629-5400 "A center for historical and horticultural education, with an emphasis on sustainable, organic production," the Wyckoff Farm, like the Queens County Farm, is located on historically significant land – in this case, the land surrounding the Pieter Claesen Wyckoff House (c. 1652-1820) in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. Again, zero chemicals, local distribution, and City Harvest are a priority. But, perhaps even more so than with the Queens Farm, teaching is key to their mission. Local high school students are employed and educated as garden interns. Visitors are schooled in Lasagna Gardening, Synergistic Agriculture, and Permaculture. And free workshops on cooking, composting, medicinal herbs, and natural pest control are offered throughout the year.
Red Hook Community Farm Columbia and Beard Street Brooklyn, NY 11231 718-855-5531 Occupying an old asphalt play lot just blocks from an 8-lane highway, the Red Hook Community Farm is surrounded by all the contradictions one might expect in an industrial Brooklyn neighborhood: high-rise projects, small corner stores, soccer fields, ferry ports, empty shipping containers, and Ikea. But behind the 25-foot chain link fence that surrounds the 2.75 acre farm, things are more congruous. Sustainable agriculture is practiced. Meaningful kills are developed. Economic activity is generated. The community's health, the surrounding restaurants, the local food shelves, and the environment benefit. Thanks to a full roster of youth leaders, a small staff provided by Added Value (the non-profit that founded the farm), nutrient-rich soil provided by the Bronx Zoo, and volunteers and interns of all ages, the once-dilapidated asphalt lot is now a respected model in urban agriculture and community revitalization.
Written by Kristen Meinzer