Sustainable Living : 8 New York City Farms
Many people are surprised to learn that there are several working farms within NYC. It’s hard to imagine there’s space in this densely-populated city for fruit trees, vegetable gardens, and even livestock. Standards for local produce are quickly changing, as we no longer have to rely on farms upstate or on Long Island for fresh fruits and vegetables. Here’s a look at NYC’s farms and what they’re growing:
Red Hook Community Farm
Red Hook, Brooklyn
Red Hook Community Farm was established in 2001 at the site of a former concrete baseball field. The 2.75 acre farm and compost site is run by Added Value, a nonprofit that teaches Brooklyn youth about sustainable urban agriculture. The farm’s produce includes arugula, beets, okra, heirloom tomatoes, garlic, basil, and cut flowers. The farm supplies Added Value’s Farmers Market and CSA, and it yielded over 20,000 pounds of produce last year. Red Hook Community Farm leads workshops for more than 1300 schoolchildren each year, and has created $120,000 in local economic activity since 2003. If you would like to volunteer at the farm, you can check Added Value’s calendar for a list of upcoming events.
Gotham Greens provides retail and restaurant customers with reliable, sustainable and pesticide-free, year-round produce from its high-tech urban rooftop greenhouses. The company operates 3 facilities in New York City and 1 in Chicago. Their flagship greenhouse in Greenpoint was built in 2011 and produces over 100,000 pounds of leafy greens each year. The facility’s electrical demands are offset by onsite solar panels, passive ventilation, thermal curtains, and recirculating irrigation systems. The Gowanus facility was built in 2013 on the roof of Whole Foods Market’s Brooklyn store. This rooftop greenhouse is the first commercial-scale greenhouse farm integrated into a supermarket, and also contains a solar PV system for sustainable energy. Gotham Greens’ Hollis, Queens facility was completed in 2015 and employs over 50 full-timers.
JetBlue Airways – Terminal 5 Farm
JFK Airport – Queens, NY
Located on the curb outside the JetBlue Airways Terminal 5 at JFK Airport, this 24,000 square foot farm grows blue potatoes (which will be used in the chips they give out), herbs, and vegetable plants including arugula, beets, sage, and kale. When building the farm, JetBlue had to be careful to plant crops that would attract bees and butterflies, but not birds (since birds could interfere with air traffic at JFK). The farm is expected to provide produce for some of Terminal 5’s restaurants and for donations to local food pantries. Eventually, JetBlue passengers will be able to visit the farm and learn about urban gardening as well.
Governors Island Teaching Garden
GrowNYC’s Governors Island Teaching Garden hosts programs that allow kids to plant, water, harvest, and cook the garden’s vegetables, herbs, and fruits. The garden is also open to the public during the Governors Island open season (usually from the end of May through late September). With over 20 vegetable beds made from recycled materials, an outdoor kitchen with solar oven, and several rainwater harvesting systems, the Governor’s Island Teaching Garden is an engaging and exciting introduction to sustainable farming for school-aged children and adults alike. If you are interested in scheduling a school trip, you can fill out the field trip request form. Or, you can fill out the Governors Island Teaching Garden Survey if you’re interested in volunteer opportunities.
Queens County Farm Museum
Floral Park, Queens
Dating back to 1697, the Queens County Farm Museum occupies the longest continuously-farmed site in New York State and the largest remaining area of undisturbed farmland in New York City. It is the only farm in NYC with livestock, and they have a two-acre vegetable field as well. Instead of using chemical fertilizers and insecticides, the farm practices sustainable techniques including crop rotation, timed planting, catch crops, and companion planting. Products from the farm are sold only in NYC, mainly in the gift shop and the Union Square Greenmarket. Leftover produce is donated to City Harvest and community food banks. Owned by the New York City Department of Parks, the farm offers guided tours and seasonal hayrides on Saturdays and Sundays. General admission is free, but public events have paid admission – a list of events can be found on the Queens County Farm Museum website.
Battery Urban Farm
Battery Park, Manhattan
The Battery Urban Farm was started in 2011 by The Battery Conservancy in partnership with the Environmental Club at Millennium High School. The farm aims to empower NYC children to make healthier eating choices while cultivating environmental stewardship among the community. Fruit trees, berries, mushrooms, and medicinal plants all grow at the Battery Urban Farm. Produce from the vegetable farm is donated to school cafeterias through the Garden to School Cafe Program and to Drive Change, a nonprofit that employs formerly incarcerated youth at their food trucks. The public is welcome to visit the farm between 8am and 4pm on weekdays, and educators can register for field trips through this online form.
Brooklyn Navy Yard and Long Island City, Queens
Located on two roofs (one in Brooklyn and the other in Queens), Brooklyn Grange grows over 50,000 pounds of organic produce per year. Brooklyn Grange also provides urban farming and green roof consulting. The Long Island City location was built in 2010 and holds the record for the largest soil rooftop farm in the world. The Navy Yard Farm was installed in 2012 and manages over one million gallons of stormwater each year, reducing the amount of waste water that flows into the city’s waterways. In addition to growing vegetables, the Brooklyn Grange keeps egg-laying hens and cultivates bees for their honey. Educational nonprofit partner City Growers hosts educational tours and workshops for thousands of NYC youth each year. The farm will reopen for visitors in Spring 2016 – visit the Brooklyn Grange website for more details.
Tenth Acre Farms
East Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Tenth Acre Farms was started in 2009 i co-founder Jordan Hall’s backyard. Since then, they have expanded to take over an abandoned basketball court in Greenpoint, Brooklyn as well. Tenth Acre Farms uses 100% organic methods to grow their vegetables, and practices “raised bed gardening,” which allows for an extended growing season and eliminates the need for gardeners to step on the soil, meaning the roots can spread wherever they need to. Tenth Acre Farms is currently closed for the winter, but you can check their website for their weekly visiting hours in the spring.
While many of NYC’s farms are closing for the winter season, I hope you have the opportunity to visit some of them once the weather warms up again.