A Farm Friendly and Sustainable Spring

Green Tips | May 18, 2024

By Peter Aronson

Buying locally produced food and dining at farm-to-table restaurants is one way we can all work together to fight climate change.  

Here we will offer tips on how you can turn the warm weather months into an educational farm-to-table extravaganza.

You can start out by visiting one of the many urban farms in New York City or elsewhere in the state, and then you can dine at one of the many farm-to-table restaurants.

Eating locally produced foods helps to cut down on one of the largest contributors of climate change: Transportation. Transporting food great distances to the East Coast is one of the leading sources of carbon pollution. Eating locally produced food, at home and in restaurants, is one way to drastically reduce that carbon footprint.

You can start your educational adventure by visiting a wonderful hidden gem along the Westside Highway, at 34th Street, where the seven-acre Javits Convention Center rooftop garden provides a stirring view of the Hudson River. Few people know that the facility has one of the largest green roofs in the United States and that it includes a one-acre farm. The area, a sanctuary to dozens of local and migratory birds, grows up to 50 crops a year to provide, literally, rooftop-garden-to-table food for events at the Javits Center. 

The roof is open to tours April-November. The cost is $5. Great for a family outing.

If you live in Brooklyn or wish to visit, there’s the 6,000-square foot Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Greenpoint. The organic farm, a non-profit sitting atop a warehouse, runs a weekly market and sells its produce to local restaurants. They also accept volunteers. For more info: http://rooftopfarms.org/volunteer/

There’s also Brooklyn Grange farms, with two locations open to the public, at the  Brooklyn Navy Yard and in Sunset, Queens. The multi-acre organic farms offer a great variety of public events, from tours and yoga to events such as weddings. They produce more than 100,000 pounds of vegetables a year for its farmer’s market and host events.

Or you can take the family to the 40,000-square-foot Randall’s Island Urban Farm. It’s open on weekends from 10-4. They offer free events where you can learn about urban gardening, composting, sustainable agriculture, and even rice paddies, which the farm has.

Or, if you want to be more adventurous, try volunteering at NYC’s Billion Oyster Project, which is restoring the devastated oyster reefs to New York Harbor. The oysters, through their own filtering system, naturally clean the harbor water and their reefs protect the shoreline from erosion. To learn more why oysters are environmentally important to New York waterways (they are called “ecosystems engineers”), click here: https://www.billionoysterproject.org/ecosystem-engineers

To explore volunteering, click here: https://www.billionoysterproject.org/volunteer.     

If you live in or want to visit the greenest borough in New York City, wander over to the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden on Staten Island. The center, which has 14 botanical gardens on its 83-acre campus, is open seven days a week, dawn to dusk, and is free to enter. For more info, visit https://snug-harbor.org/hours/. And if you want to volunteer in a beautiful, outdoor setting, visit https://snug-harbor.org/volunteer/

Snug Harbor includes the 2.5 acre Heritage Farm. To volunteer at the farm’s composting program, click to learn more: https://snug-harbor.org/heritage-farm/ 

If you want to learn more about bees or beekeeping, visit the hives in Bryant Park. You’ll learn about how bees help make our plants healthier and more beautiful.

If you want to take a short boat ride south, visit the one-acre urban farm on Governors Island, known as the GrowNYC Teaching Garden. They offer teaching events for kids and older adults and is open to the general public as well. Click here for more information about Governors Island and here for more about the rest of the sustainable happenings in the city.  

To learn more about the benefits of farming and locally-sourced produce on Long Island, visit the Suffolk County Farm and Educational Center in Yaphank. One of its stated goals is to help educate the public so as to “pave the way for a sustainable future.”

Westchester Family lists 13 farms to visit with your family in Westchester County.

If you want to stay on a farm in the Catskills, there are plenty of options.  

There are family farms in the Albany region. In the Adirondacks, Up Yonda Farm Environmental Education Center is a good option.

To find the best farm-to-table restaurants in NYC, see Wanderly, TimeOut New York, Culture Trip, Open Table, or just Google for your own preference or neighborhood.

The I Love New York website lists favorite farm-to-table restaurants throughout the state.    

Happy sustainable eating. 

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