One doesn’t associate Midtown with farms, but now a piece of land not far from the railroad tracks is seriously going under the spade. The Kingston Land Trust is ramping up its community gardens initiative by launching the city’s first urban farm, in partnership with The Queens Galley. Called the South Pine Street City Farm, it’s located on a quarter acre of land owned and donated by Binnewater Ice Company. Farmer Jesica Clark said the farm will supply a portion of its harvest to The Queens Galley and to two restaurants the QG is planning to open at the Kirkland, in partnership with RUPCO and Family of Woodstock. Clark hopes to sell the remainder of the harvest at a farmers’ market.
Clark, who grew up in New York City and was a precocious foodie—“I was one of those strange kids who loved eating spinach and broccoli”—has been farming since 2003, a year after she graduated from Vassar College. Most recently she was managing Phillies Bridge Farm, in New Paltz, a non-profit organization that runs a farm camp and also a CSA. After moving to Kingston a couple of years ago to be with her husband, Clark wanted to farm closer to home. She got involved with the Victory Garden project at City Hall, where she met KLT president Rebecca Martin, and through Martin learned about the Binnewater property.
As a customer, Martin was aware of the vacant lot adjacent to Binnewater Ice Company’s building and had talked with owner Diane Davenport about planting a community garden there. Davenport was enthusiastic: “I thought it would be nice to have something on the property that the community could share in,” she said. (The company, which has seven employees, resells ice and water from a spring in Kiamesha, Sullivan County; it was founded in 1910 and original sold ice cut from Williams Lake, one of the Binnewaters.)
The garden became a reality last year, with some vegetables donated to The Queens Galley. Turning it into a farm means the land will be cultivated more efficiently and with a bit more organization. Clark will combine the separate plots into one entity, farmed collectively. So far, $7,000 has been raised for the project from grants and in-kind donations. Two thousand dollars’ worth of soil has been trucked in. A Learn and Save America grant, coordinated through Steve and Julie Noble, the city’s environmental and environmental educational managers, paid for the tool shed, according to Clark.
In the last few weeks, Clark has been shuttling back and forth to New Paltz, where she’s cultivating seedlings for the farm housed in Phillies Bridges’ heated greenhouses. The first season, she plans to grow cucumbers, haricots, summer squashes, heirloom eggplants and less common herbs, such as anise, hyssop, and orange thyme, along with tomatoes and basil.
Using contacts from The Queens Galley, she’s brought in various school groups and aims to involve people from the community as much as possible. This Saturday, April 9, the South Pine Street Farm will be holding its second work party, which will be finishing up the beds and planting seeds. An arbor might also be established, under direction from resident carpenter Jay Freedman. Clark advises volunteers to bring gloves and dress in layers. The rain date is Sunday, April 10. The farm is located at 27 South Pine Street.
“We’d love to see food and agriculture be a really significant part of Kingston’s culture, as it once was,” said Clark, noting the success of the KLT in galvanizing many residents to plant vegetable gardens. About her own Midtown spot, she notes that “there’s lots of sun, it’s quiet, and the neighbors are very supportive. I’m very happy to be there.”