On Saturday, the Lord's favorite party day, I went over to the Red Hook Harvest Festival with my pal Ray who took a series of crappy phone photos of me posing with hot cider and desperately clutching a copy of Edible Brooklyn. I now regret not bringing a real camera but will try my best to illustrate all my important points through these images.
First of all, wow. I've never been to see the Red Hook farm though I've touted their organizers, Added Value. Added Value works in Red Hook on community programs that clean up parks, teach leadership, good nutrition, provide access to healthy affordable food and build urban farms, like the one in front of Ikea. That's right, there's an Ikea next door if you weren't sold before. I went without even knowing about the Ikea so just imagine my delight. In fact I had so little knowledge about where I was going or why that Ray and I wandered around for almost forty minutes before by the grace of an unseen force (Ikea?) we stumbled across the festival grounds.
Now I don't know what I was expecting but those expectations must have been low because I was pretty blown away by what from most perspectives was a less than breathtaking affair (Ray's perspective). First of all, they had the South Bronx bee man there, Roger Repohl giving a demo on the ways of the bees and violently disputing the lies promoted by Jerry Seinfeld's Bee Movie to the little children all around. Having seen a few demos of honey harvesting and bee hypnotizing I opted out but came back later for a tasting. Can I just say Wow! And Whoa! Roger harvests a few times a year, through summer to late fall, and every batch has a different color and flavor. Most larger distributors just mix all their honey in one big pot so they can get a consistent product. No generic sweetness here, each bottle contained a separate and unique bouquet of aroma and sensation. It's times like these that I wish I had a more colorful food vocabulary... particularly considering my supposed investment in food. Hmm. Let us just say they were fruity and burst across the palate with an amber fist of nostril flaring-eh, forget it. Let us just say instead that I spent my last six dollars on a bottle, six dollars that may break the bank for rent this month. THAT'S how good it is.
I wasn't going to go on and on about honey again but in that issue of Edible Brooklyn I'm clutching there happens to be an article about urban beekeeping and how New York is one of the few cities that outlaws it. It's pretty interesting and I think once I have enough start up capital (never) I may flaunt the law and my landlord and start up a hive of my own. Their fall issue isn't up yet or I'd link to it, but it is really interesting and can be picked up around town or you can check in later this month here.
Also Roger has a blog that seems to be largely about politics, oddly, and I haven't really reviewed his opinions...but he has a few funny articles about bees too.
There were a lot of vendors around but since I had a budget of eight dollars and spent six on honey my choices were limited. A dollar for cider and a dollar for a raffle ticket-fingers crossed I'll win that vintage bike! Amongst the people selling edible fall goodies were various organizations handing out information and free swag. Big ups to Heifer International for bringing loads of colorful lapel buttons featuring such classic slogans as 'Go Goat' and 'Bee Sweet'. Raymond took so many I was embarrassed to continue the button-glutton, but did manage to snag those two. Because I can get behind Goats and Bees, for realz. We weren't alone in our attraction to shiny colorful objects- a local step dancing troupe outfitted in fringed tie dye (hurray for classics again) had clearly stopped by the table before their performance. Maybe they'll look up what Heifer Int'l is when they get home...
There were also representatives from Compostville, or The New York City Compost Project. I don't want to belittle what they do or say that their table was anything but covered in pamphlets and helpful info on how to compost, but the guy I talked too seemed completely baffled by all my questions regarding my compost bin, which right now is just a garbage can full of rotten food.
"But, that's what compost is...", He said, smiling uncertainly.
"Yes, but it's almost full!! What do I do?"
Pointing at pictures from the pamphlets of what my bin looks like and reiterating that it's almost full had no effect. Luckily there's a compost helpline (Seriously): 718-817-8543. I haven't called it but may this weekend as my roommate and I have vowed to do something about the compost situation. Stay tuned for further reporting...Anyhow he loaded me down with booklets and magnets and sent me away to bother someone else.
The farm itself, which I realize still hasn't been described aside from being blessed by Ikea as a neighbor, sits on a piece of land that looks like it was once a park or playground surrounded by chain linked fence and rowed all across with hay and beds and its own tall compost pile. They have a greenhouse and a few chickens, plus a demo hut which in addition to the Bee Man also featured a canning/jarring how to. There was a even a pumpkin patch in the back filled with parents and shrieking children and some sadly crushed pumpkins. Better than sadly crushed children. Am I right?
The pumpkin patch encapsulated the urban farm for me. It was kind of crazy in there, full of diverse families crushing pumpkins...actually I'm not sure where I'm going with this. Maybe I mean to say that we think of farming and nature as being exclusively for rural parts of the country, and it's true that when you take farming to an urban setting it's not as picturesque as we like. But it is lively and inclusive and brings people together.
This image is beautiful. I may get a carrot-pierced heart tattooed on my chest.
After all that fresh air and love of nature we walked to Fairway and ate all the samples. I call it Urban Foraging. Here's another link to Added Value. They're great. Did I mention they have a farm next to Ikea? (I really couldn't care less about Ikea)