Many New Yorkers are currently busy digging their hands into composted soil, at work on something important on an urban farm. American cities are getting greener, one rooftop and block at a time, and the Big Apple is certainly no exception. Take a walk or hop on your bike and set your GPS in the direction of one these community farms in NYC for an enriching eco-escape from the city.
Eagle Street Rooftop Farm | 44 Eagle Street, Greenpoint | Brooklyn
Somewhere between a plastic factory and a sewage treatment center, an organic oasis thrives in Greenpoint. Co-founders Annie Novak and Ben Flanner began cultivating greens and green thumbs atop an Eagle Street warehouse in 2009. Novak now operates the farm, which includes chickens, bees, bunnies and a range of flowers, herbs and vegetables such as kale, mustards, cucumbers and peas. The farm delivers produce by bicycle to local restaurants like Paulie Gee’s and Marlow & Sons (their most remote customer), and sells to the public through a CSA program and an on-site Sunday market. You can help keep the farm running from seeding through harvest during Eagle Street’s volunteer Sundays. Stick around for a free workshop on the likes of urban beekeeping, carrot soapmaking and tomato caretaking.
Volunteer Hours: 1pm-4pm, Sundays April-October
Free Workshops: 2pm, Sundays April-October
Market Hours: 10am-4pm, Sundays April-October
Brooklyn Grange | 37-18 Northern Blvd, Long Island City | Queens
Eagle Street Rooftop Farm alum Ben Flanner hopped across the Pulaski Bridge to Long Island City after the planned site for Brooklyn Grange fell through. The team–including Roberta’s co-owners Brandon Hoy and Chris Parachini–decided to stick with the name despite the change in borough. They seeded their big (one acre) rooftop farm in 2010 with even bigger aspirations to grow on roofs throughout and beyond New York City. The team cultivates a range of plants, including beans, beets, fennel and, one of their biggest crops, tomatoes. Brooklyn Range supplies restaurants like Fatty ‘Cue and, of course, Roberta’s with produce, also sold at the farm and the Brooklyn Flea Smorgasburg. If it’s a one-pound bag of red wigglers you’re after, they’ve got those too (available by special request).
Volunteer Hours: May-October 31, 10am-4pm, Saturdays. Visitors welcome on Wednesdays, 2pm-6pm
Market Hours: At the farm: 2pm-7pm, Wednesdays; Brooklyn Flea Smorgasburg: 9am-5pm, Saturdays
East New York Farms! | Brooklyn
For East NY community members and you frontiers(wo)men ready to venture east of Prospect Park, ENYF has options. Try your hand at tending okra, sweet peppers and bitter melon alongside young apprentices at ENYF’s urban farm, garden or both. The United Community Center Youth Farm and Hands and Heart Garden host open volunteer days on alternate Saturdays. Led by the folks behind ENY Farmers’ Market, ENYF has been rallying community-led economic development and promoting local sustainable agriculture since 1998. If you live in the area, they’ll also help you carve out your own plot of green in the city and teach you how to grow organic vegetables on you own.
Locations: UCC Youth Farm: Schenck Avenue between New Lots and Livonia Avenues, East NY; Hands and Heart Garden: New Lots Avenue between Alabama and Georgia Avenues, East NY
Volunteer Hours: At the UCC Youth Farm: 10am-2pm, 1st and 3rd Saturdays; At Hands and Heart Garden: 10am-2pm, 2nd and 4th Saturdays. Both April-October
Market Hours: UCC Youth Farm: 9am-3pm, Saturdays, June-November; Hands and Heart Garden: 3:30pm-6:30pm, Wednesdays, July-October
Added Value: Red Hook Community Farm | 370 Van Brunt Street, Red Hook | Brooklyn
In 2002, upstate farmer Ben Balcolm had visions of an abandoned baseball field becoming something more productive than a park of broken glass. One year later, he and Ian Marvy had turned that vision into Red Hook Community Farm. A robust platform for youth education, the Farm is the homebase for teen empowerment and farm-to-classroom programs. Bringing together Red Hook residents, NYC youth and lost IKEA shoppers in the name of homegrown produce, the Farm hosts open volunteer days spring through late autumn. They sell the fruits of their labor through partnerships with neighborhood restaurants like Frankies and Fort Defiance, the Red Hook Farmers Market and a CSA. Added Value, the non-profit that operates Red Hook Community Farm and founded the Red Hook Farmers Market, launched a farm in the shadow of Lady Liberty in 2009. Located on Governors Island, Farm on the Island is adding acreage (three, in fact) to the field of communal, educational farming. Contact Added Value to learn about volunteering for the Farm on the Island.
Volunteer Hours (Red Hook): 9am-1pm, Fridays and 10am-4pm, Saturdays, May-November
Market Hours: Red Hook Farmers Market, 10am-5pm, Saturdays June-October
Urban Farm at the Battery | State Street at Pearl Street, Battery Park | Manhattan
If the only island you want to dig into is Manhattan, head down to the newest kid in NYC’s eco-club at Battery Park. You shouldn’t have much trouble spotting the turkey-shaped tribute to the park’s long time feathered resident, Zelda. Christened this spring with its very first crop of radishes, Urban Farm is currently a’sprout with broccoli, shallots, heirloom eggplants and close to 100 other vegetable varieties. The farm kicked off its inaugural season with student farmhands in April, and is looking for more hands to help weed, harvest, build fences and more. Sign up (you’re not on those anarchist outer boroughs anymore) to volunteer online.
Volunteer Hours: AM and PM shifts Monday-Friday (weekend volunteer hours coming soon)
Photos: Signe Brewster