Heritage Farm at Snug Harbor Plants First Cover Crops
Staten Island’s Snug Harbor Heritage Farm had planned it for years. Last month, it finally happened. A one-acre field was tilled and covered with winter rye, hairy vetch and field peas and oats, marking the farm’s first official planting.
It was probably the longest-planned — or rather longest-delayed — planting ever, but Gus Jones, the farm’s newly hired full-time farm manager, wasn’t at all surprised.
The land was last used for agriculture 50 years ago, when cows grazed there, Jones explained. The forest had to be cleared, trees chopped and tree stumps removed. And compost — 1,000 cubic yards of it — had to be brought in.
“It’s still very early,” said the Illinois native. The first crops are expected next spring and summer, but it will be a few more years after that before the farm starts its stride, said Jones.
Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Center announced plans for the new farm nearly two years ago in a ceremony that drew New York State Assemblyman Matthew Titone and other officials. The original plan included a third-acre demonstration vineyard, which was ill-suited for the farm location, Jones explained. Farm capacity and other issues also had to be worked out before planting started.
Jones, who farmed for 11 years in Illinois, was enthusiastic about expanding the farming community in Staten Island.
“For the last 10 years, there was one farm for all of Staten Island,” said Jones. “How in the world can you have one farm for 400,000 people?”
His short-term focus will be on building the nutrient quality of the soil, a process that began with the spreading of a generous layer of compost on the one-acre field. The compost, supplied by Staten Island’s Department of Sanitation, and the cover crops he recently planted would help increase the fertility of the soil.
“You don’t want the field bare,” said Jones. He explained that because the field was on a slope, “all the fertility would leach out” without crops and their root systems to hold the soil intact. The plants would hold all the nutrients in their biomass, even after breaking down, he said.
The farm will expand gradually to three acres by 2014. Half of the produce will supply food pantries and kitchens in Staten Island. Thirty percent will be sold at a farm stand and the rest to local restaurants.
Jones will be more than the farm’s head farmer. He will also be an educator, hosting school groups and creating apprenticeships to help facilitate jobs and groom future farmers.
“We want people to be farming,” he said.
To read Jones’ blog, Farm City, click here.
Caption for photo above: Snug Harbor Heritage Farm plants one-acre field with four staple cover crops: winter rye, hairy vetch, field peas and oats. The crops mark the farm’s first official planting.
Entry filed under: City Farmers, Farmers Market, Local Food Production, Urban Agriculture. Tags: demonstration vineyard, Gus Jones, hairy vetch, Matthew Titone, New York State Assemblyman, Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden, Snug Harbor Heritage Farm, Urban Agriculture, urban farming.