Many stressed-out city chefs dream of retreating to the meadows and running their own farm. The ideal is to be self-sufficient, grow your own, slow down and feed up. The problem is that a strong market doesn’t exist in far flung locations and getting the word out is hard. Offering a solution to this, North Brooklyn Farms opened up last year. Their colorful greenhouse in Williamsburg is bursting with sustainably grown produce ready for picking. Their mission? To provide the urban community with open space that’s centered around nature, where city dwellers are welcome to muck in.
What the great, green minds behind North Brooklyn Farms saw in this specific lot of land was an unused space in a prime location with huge potential. It’s hard to see past a dilapidated area once it’s been neglected, so to imagine something as visionary as North Brooklyn Farms shaped from a pile of rubble is quite extraordinary. Once the Domino Sugar refinery building, this space had been left abandoned for 150 years. Now, it houses a thriving farmers’ market, ‘farm-to-table’ dinners, community volunteer days, musical performances and more.
On site, the Farm on Kent is an urban agricultural garden brimming with produce raised with organic seed and soil, which is totally untouched by pesticides, chemicals and synthetics. Depending on the weather, prices of the deliciously fresh produce range as the year progresses. A variety of vegetables, herbs and flowers grow throughout the summer season, including scarlet kale, okra, bronze fennel, mint, summer squash, shishito peppers, eggplants and zucchini. Vegetables are at the core of the menu at the Farm on Kent and this naturally translates into plant-based, vegan and vegetarian dishes; but the team do mix it up with locally-sourced meats, seafood and dairy on occasion.
North Brooklyn Farms represents a merging of metropolitan, entrepreneurial spirit and careful consideration for the environment. The venue puts on events inspired by the surroundings; the most recent included a sunset tasting of herbal elixirs using locally-sourced medicinal herbs and roots. On top of that, volunteers are invited to help out on the farm. This could mean building garden beds, planting, weeding, watering, harvesting; community outreach; event planning; giving farm tours or coordinating group visits. There have also been rumours that they will be opening a new area to the public this Memorial Day for more leisurely activities during the summer months.
The venue also offers intimate private events, ranging from small neighborhood dinners to dog yoga sessions and even weddings. Of course, in-house ‘root-to-flower’ catering is available, where the farm chefs craft vibrant menus, inspired by the vegetables and herbs grown on site and at the partnering upstate farm in the Catskills.
In February 2018, the group opened up Bar Annicka in Greenpoint, in collaboration with Greenpoint Beer and Ale Co. This low-key watering hole is a beacon for North Brooklyn Farms’ ethos of care and community. Its new restaurant is the first to follow under Gov. Cuomo’s ‘Farm Brewery license,’ which stipulates that the beer sold must be made primarily from locally-grown farm products. As the business stems from the idea of growth, it’s only natural that North Brooklyn Farms nurture their staff as a key priority in their new venture. At Bar Annicka, stereotypes of hospitality are broken down, as women are encouraged to assume roles in leading positions. As for the food itself, visitors can expect East Coast oysters, charred sweet potato with black tahini, puffed rice and lacinato kale, and bronzed fennel seed cookies.
As society feels increasingly disconnected with the real world and drawn into online communication, people are forever searching for authentic relationships and experiences. This also relates to food, as consumers want to be actively involved in the meal making process. North Brooklyn Farms provides a space to connect with nature and have an input in every single step in the ‘farm-to-table’ journey from the very beginning.