Growing up in the agricultural hub of Oxnard, California, I took for granted picking up fresh strawberries from roadside stands, tasting homemade salsas from the annual county salsa festival, and simply having constant, easy access to farm-fresh produce. And farm-fresh produce wasn’t just on my plate – it was all around me; I attended a school surrounded by lemon and orange orchards, and lived adjacent to strawberry fields. When I first moved to the east coast (and New Hampshire of all places), I was shocked by how relatively little fresh produce was available. Once out of school and cooking for myself, fresh food took on even greater significance to me.
When I moved back to California (to Berkeley), I searched out farmer’s markets every weekend and started reading up on the local food movement there, particularly after learning about Alice Waters and her influential restaurant (and Berkeley staple), Chez Panisse. I started looking everywhere for a way to get more involved in educating myself about where my food came from, whether at a restaurant or in my grocery store. I found myself devouring food literature by another Berkeley celeb, Michael Pollan, whose perspective on ‘food justice’ was becoming increasingly relevant to how I saw food in my life.
Moving out to NYC, it became an even greater obsession of mine to search out fresh food in this dense urban jungle; leaving California for a second time, I worried I was once again losing my ability to find food that satisfied both my appetite and my conscience. But surprisingly, delightfully – there’s a lot!
Within a few months of moving here, I was able to find and join a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), which lets members of the community provide capital to back local farms, which in turn deliver fresh produce to their supporters. After that, I started volunteering at a local urban farm, Harlem Grown and since then I’ve made it a personal crusade to search out other urban farms in NYC; just this weekend, I visited the Brooklyn Grange, a gorgeous LIC Rooftop Farm.
Search for a garden near you...anyone can join a garden!
If you’re interested in learning more about other urban farms in the New York City area, check out this great list from EcoWatch (I’ve created a map for visual convenience!). The New York Parks Department also sponsors a “Green Thumb” program where you can get involved in community gardens – this map allows you to search for locations near you.
See you down on the farm!
Sarah Hakes, Assoc. AIA