Introduction to Battery Urban Farm

Last Thursday I spent the day harvesting, seeding, and expanding my mind at Battery Urban Farm, nestled in between steel and glass office towers, in the long shadow of the new Freedom Tower at Ground Zero, bounded by New York Harbor and its islands – Governor’s, Staten, Liberty, Ellis; a one-acre farm shaped like a turkey in honor of the wild turkey named Zelda who lives in the park. Battery Urban Farm, omnipresent and unavoidable to passing buses and tourists who are headed to see the sights but find themselves surrounded by tomatoes and eggplants and sweet potatoes on the way there, find themselves stunned and silenced by the unexpected presence of a farm here, a true surprise in the financial district of this big city of ours. Even with the rumbling of the 1 train underneath, and the steady elliptical motion of the city picking up speed, working, and finally decelerating, there is serenity inside the bamboo that lines the perimeter of the farm.

This is not on a rooftop, not on a vacant neglected lot; this is not hidden, this farm; this is in Battery Park, on public land, where thousands of eyes each day will see what can and should be done with land in our cities – land used to grow food, to educate young people, to provide beauty. In the presence of so much history – the unique flavor of what was the first Dutch settlement here, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Castle Clinton – here is an acre that represents a return, a rebirth, and at the same time a look towards the future: growing food on the land of New York, for all to see and share, a remembering and a reconnecting to how it is that we stay alive each and every day. This one acre enlivens the park with possibility, it provides food to local school cafeterias and provides opportunities for local school kids to learn – the true seeds for a cultural shift in future generations. This farm is a return; yet in a sense, by flourishing in the shadow of towers, it is also something entirely new.

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