Urbanites Scratch Itch to Farm

June 9, 2010 at 2:51 am Leave a comment

No one knows exactly why.  It might be the start of a new farming season, or a yearning perhaps to go back to basics and a do-it-yourself, grow-it-yourself culture.

Whatever it is, many urbanites are flocking to gardens and farms to tend to the crops now springing from the earth.  At the Queens County Farm Museum, a 47-acre working historical farm in Floral Park, Queens, volunteers show up regularly to help out on Tuesdays and Sundays, the farm’s two volunteer work days.

“It varies from week to week,” said the farm’s Director of Agriculture Kennon Kay, with anywhere from two to 10 people helping out on volunteer days.  Some drop in for a few hours, while others work the entire day.  Most volunteers, says Kennon, are from Queens, as public transportation to the farm from other boroughs is difficult.

Fortunately, for New Yorkers bitten by the farm bug, there are plenty of other volunteer opportunities to work on farms, all within city limits.   New York’s two rooftop farms, Eagle Street Rooftop Farm and the recently opened Brooklyn Grange, host hundreds of volunteers.  Eagle Street has a schedule of open farm days, and Brooklyn Grange e-mails volunteers when it needs help.

In addition, botanical gardens in each of the boroughs recruit volunteers to help with planting, propagating, pruning and other gardening chores.  The Brooklyn Botanical Garden offers a BUG (Brooklyn Urban Gardener) certificate program, an eight-week course of interconnected workshops that covers the basics of urban gardening.  Certified BUG volunteers are dispatched to schools, senior centers, community gardens and other places throughout the city to work on greening projects.

Volunteers with basic gardening knowledge can also participate in the New York Botanical Garden’s all-star gardening group, the Bronx Green-Up.  The garden pros need help with the care and maintenance of community gardens throughout the Bronx.

There’s even a Facebook group for New Yorkers looking to relieve their itch to farm.  Get Dirty NYC provides updates on volunteer opportunities at New York City’s urban farms.

New Yorkers who want to venture outside the city and work on rural farms can find opportunities without traveling too far.  At Sylvester Manor, a 243-acre farm on Shelter Island — cradled between the North and South Fork of  Long Island — volunteers can work one or two days or for longer periods of time.   There’s only one catch:  volunteers are expected to sing as they work, as the New York Times describes here.  The owner of the farm was awarded a fellowship a few years ago to study the work songs of farmers from around the world, and he now builds on that learning experience by instilling “songing” in the fields.

Songing isn’t your thing?  Don’t give up.  The article lists a few places in New Jersey, New York and Vermont that welcome volunteers.

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Entry filed under: City Farmers, Local Food Production, Rooftop Gardening, Urban Agriculture. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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