For Lil’ Sprouts in NYC, Queens County Farm is a Big-City Adventure
New York is a city where anything is possible– and for over 300 years, it has been home to a fully functioning 47-acre farm, just between the Union Turnpike and the Grand Central Parkway in Queens.
The farm dates back to 1697 and is the longest continuously-farmed site in the entirety of New York State, passed on over generations from family to family. Today, the land is owned by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, whose purview it came under in 1975 after the farm spent fifty years as a rehabilitation center (patients would farm the land, an intuitive healing process today backed up by science). As a historic landmark, Queens County Farm‘s mission is to “preserve, restore, and interpret the site, its history and owner’s lifestyles” while their activities and curriculum quite literally bring new life (in the form of edible plants and beautiful flowers) to days long gone.
Animals and farm land share the space, peacefully coexisting as a small ecosystem. The animals are rotated throughout different plots and serve different purposes in keeping the farm healthy– for example, the goats easily raze invasive species while the pigs will tear up anything remaining in the dirt. There are pens for steer, hens, sheep, goats, pigs, and alpacas; Queens County Farm procures heritage breeds where they can, looking for animals that aren’t popular on industrial farms. On the day we visited, a group of baby goats were being delivered, their white fur bright in the spring sun. In another corner of the farm, a wide pasture is dedicated to bees, and is surrounded by pollinator-friendly plants.
The rest of the space is dedicated to farming over a hundred varieties of edible plants, greenhouses, compost, and a grouping of sensory garden boxes, each of which stimulate sight, smell, and sensation for kids. Just like with the animals, Queens County Farm plants heirloom varieties where they can, to provide an interesting, diverse crop for their community. The compost is likewise maintained with the surrounding population in mind; anyone can drop off their food scraps, and excess compost is given back to the local community.
Queens County Farm also hosts a number of events and classes throughout the year, both for adults and families. Their big events– like their sheep shearing festival– occur on the weekends and are open to anyone for a small fee, inevitably attracting large crowds. Their adult education classes are more focused and require signup ahead of time; topics range from “beginner bee keeping” to “fundamentals of watercolors” to sessions about “wild edibles”.
Standing in the middle of the farm, it is difficult to remember you are still New York City. On the fringes of the property, city life returns– the farm abuts a school, and the noise of recess and traffic can be heard through the vine-covered fences. With the exception of these cultural signifiers, bucolic silence reigns: the sort that only comes with wide open spaces. The sky is uninterrupted, encircled only by green– a timeless sight, one to be enjoyed and savored for generations to come.
To find out more about the Queens County Farm, check out their website.