How It Started
In March 2013, North Brooklyn Farms gained access to the former parking lot of the historic Domino Sugar Refinery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The lot had been vacant for nearly a decade after the refinery closed in 2004. The developer who had purchased the former Domino property began looking in late 2012 for people who could make use of the parcel, which they called Site E, before they developed the land. North Brooklyn Farms submitted one of the winning proposals.
Construction & Community
In April 2013, the founders of North Brooklyn Farms began digging, sifting and leveling the existing landscape with the help of volunteers from the surrounding neighborhood. Raised beds were built with recycled scaffolding lumber on top of pallets for vegetable production, and beds were carved from the hard-packed urban landscape for cut flower production. Tons of clean dirt was hauled in to fill the beds.
During the building process, a number of neighbors saw what was happening and asked if they could help out. Of course they could. Some of those volunteers became key members of the farm team.
What We Grow
The farm produces dozens of varieties of vegetables and sells them at a pick-your-own farm stand or already prepared in a 3-course farm dinner.
In addition to our vegetable production, we manage thousands of square feet of cut flower production space. We sell many varieties of zinnias, cosmos, sunflowers, echinacea, coneflower, snapdragons and other flowers to the general public and floral design community.
Most importantly, the farm is open to the public so New York residents can connect with land and methods of food cultivation that are often forgotten in city life. Many of our visitors are local schoolchildren, who can apply the science curriculum they learn in school with hands on experience on a farm in the city.
The Way We Grow
North Brooklyn Farms practices sustainable farming techniques, forgoing petrochemical fertilizer for old-fashioned compost and using best-practice techniques to avoid pests, with safe materials like soap used as a last line of defense against hungry critters instead of synthetic pesticides.
Our volunteer hours give people in the community the ability to dig in the dirt and connect with others in a meaningful way. A lot of our work is done by a lot of different people.
We can’t help that media outlets like the New York Times want to put our farmers in action on the cover of their style section. It’s a natural reaction for a culture that craves the magic of doing what we know is right.
The Farm’s Future
All of our vegetable beds were built on top of shipping pallets, so they can be moved to a new site when we lose access to our current farm. We are looking at other vacant lots in North Brooklyn to serve as our new home.
The farm was founded on the belief that an urban farm should be grounded in the earth with a satellite, supporting agricultural production space in the rural area surrounding the City. That model is being developed this year where one of the farm’s co-founders is producing vegetables in the Catskills that will bolster our farm stand and farm dinners with field crops such as squash, potatoes and onions that are too difficult to raise in the city.
Some day we hope to own a farm upstate and several in the city, creating a farm business that can give people not only a sense of place in the city but a place to escape outside of it.