Along the barren, industrial sections of South Williamsburg, a garden has been sprouting and continuing to take shape over the past year.
North Brooklyn Farms has been operating out of a formerly vacant lot – now part of Two Trees Management’s Domino Development site – on Kent Avenue between South 3rd and 4th Streets, known as Havemeyer Park since March 2013. The developers granted the folks behind North Brooklyn Farms access to the land, after the latter won a proposal to develop it.
But come August, North Brooklyn Farms’ lease will expire – and while there is a possibility to extend – it is also possible that the group will have to relocate – and this week it’s launching a Kickstarter campaign to ensure the smooth and efficient running of the remainder of its time at Havemeyer Park, and to help finance a new location in the neighborhood.
“We are focused on making the most of what we have at our space right now,” said Ryan Watson, one of the co-founders of North Brooklyn Farms. “There are very few green areas in South Williamsburg and I hope we’ve created a model for how vacant lots can be utilized in urban settings.”
That’s also the group’s primary goal – to identify vacant lots in the city and transform them into urban farms.
To help encourage similar public uses of vacant land, in 2013 Assemblyman Joe Lentol and Councilmember Steve Levin each introduced legislation to provide a property tax exemption to owners that dedicate their vacant lots for public use.
At present, North Brooklyn Farms grows dozens of varieties of vegetables that are sold at a stand at the farm twice a week. In addition North Brooklyn Farms organizes a three-course farm-to-table dinner each Sunday within the farm itself.
But central to the group’s ideology is community engagement – The farm plays host to local schoolchildren – who volunteer in its upkeep.
“It’s really important to us that the schools are able to utilize this space,” said Watson, an urban farmer originally from California who opened the farm along with Henry Sweets. “I really hope to carry forward the momentum we’ve gained so far.”
Sweets and Watson met while working together at the Battery Urban Farm in Manhattan. The duo gained access to the abandoned parking lot at Domino in March 2013. Construction of the farm started a month afterward – and numerous neighbors pitched in for its creation.
Vegetables are grown on raised beds created out of recycled scaffolding lumber placed on top pallets – which would make it relatively easy for the group to transport to a new location if its required to move come August.
The farm however is entirely dependent on its fundraising initiatives – the sale of its produce and the Sunday suppers contribute to an extent – but it’s still not quite enough to support staff members and the programs the Farm offers. It receives no funding from the developers of the Domino site or the city’s Parks Department.
It’s why the farm can only be open to the public twice a week. The Farm would like to bring in even more schoolchildren to participate, and it’s hoping the Kickstarter campaign will provide that additional boost.
The group is currently scouting locations for the potential move later in the year, but nothing has been finalized yet.
To find out more information about the Farm, to volunteer, to shop at the farm stand, and to sign up for a Sunday supper visit http://wp.northbrooklynfarms.com.
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