Coming home the other day from work, I passed by Quaint, a neighborhood restaurant in Sunnyside, Queens, and saw my friend, owner Tim Chen. He asked me if I wanted "to go to the farm on Northern Boulevard" in Astoria, a nearby NYC neighborhood. I was puzzled (a NYC farm?), but told him, of course I'd go. Apparently the farm is called the Brooklyn Grange, strangley since they are in Queens, not Brooklyn.
We jumped in Tim's car and drove over, passing the blistering hot throughfare called Northern Boulevard and the old Standard Motors parts building, not exactly typical farm country landscape.Then Tim parked in front of an industrial loft building. There I saw a table set with fresh farmed products and some bread from a Brooklyn bakery. Tim suggested we go meet one of the farmers, which meant taking an elevator ride up to the fifth floor, then a walk one flight up to the building's roof. Voila, the farm sat amid patches of gravel and dirt – this amid the glorious New York City skyline.
Amazing place. There were tomatoes (in what seemed their last leg given the heat), some beautiful different colored peppers, okra,(to us in military food service circles, known as "poodle penis"), eggplants, wonderful salad mixes, mizuna and lots more. But this farm was in NYC, which meant the parking meter was running. And Tim had dinner service to contend with, and I just wanted to get out of the blazing sun or I would wilt like lettuce!
Downstairs I bought some mixed baby tomatoes and yes, lettuce, perfect with my pizza and salad for dinner tonight! We chatted with Ben, the young farmer who also looked overwhelmed from the city heatwave. Be sure to visit or volunteer! I will go back again and pick up some goods for my table, that is for sure.
No doubt a tree grows in Brooklyn, or should I say, a garden on a rooftop in Astoria is blooming.