RED HOOK – On the corner of Columbia and Sigourney streets, directly across from Ikea, lies land filled with crisp produce sprouting from the soil. Hip-hop music plays faintly in the background as community volunteers push wheelbarrows and snip freshly grown okra at the stems. A small attentive crowd is gathered for a cooking demo taking place next to the farmers market selling bright red apples, purple plums, eggs, green tomatoes, and hot peppers.
Established in 2001, the Red Hook Community Farm was awarded $25,000 by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets two months ago. “These grants will go a long way in providing the boost that many need to maintain or expand their growing sites and continue to serve the needs of their communities,” Commissioner Richard Ball said in a release announcing the awards.
The grant will also help promote healthy eating and increase neighborhood residents’ exposure to different fruits and vegetables, according to an article published by Empire Farm and Dairy (NY).
Distribution of the funding has yet to be announced but Red Hook Community Farm staff and volunteers hope the money can be allocated to certain areas.
Farm Manager, Brendan Parker, would like to see parts of the funding go to more local Red Hook youth staff and young adults older than 18. The farm hires up to 25 each spring, summer and fall season.
Parker helps to coordinate volunteer groups and ensures they are having positive experiences at the garden. He said that he wants to train high schoolers who contribute to the farm to be the next leaders of the urban farming movement.
Plenty of activity is seen on a Saturday at the community farm, from a group helping to build a coop for chickens for the spring season, to drop-in volunteers who help with weeding and harvesting, to the farm’s CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) pickup, to cooking demos presented by the staff and the farmers market.
Riza Cruz, a longtime volunteer who works with high school students, says that she likes that the farm is educational and gives the students experience if they are interested in agricultural studies and urban farming.
“I’d spend $25k on more solar panels and wind turbines,” Cruz said if she could suggest how the funding be spent. She has noticed that a few turbines need repair and additional solar panels could be added.
Cruz feels a sense of accomplishment from the physical labor of volunteering and from giving a surplus of food back to the community.
“This place is amazing. It’s huge. It’s beautiful,” said Education and Farm Manager, Souhair Kenas, who describes the character and atmosphere of the Red Hook Community Farm as resilient, unique and abundant.
Red Hook Community Farm is open for business on Saturdays from June through November.