Jonathan Wilson is the manager of the Heritage Farm at Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden. Located on Staten Island’s north shore, the two-and-a-half acre farm, now in its fifth season, uses sustainable methods to grow vegetables, fruit, flowers and herbs for food banks and Michelin-starred restaurants alike. It is a rare thing within the five boroughs: a production-scale agricultural endeavor that’s not on a rooftop. It even has a tractor.
Snug Harbor’s agricultural mission continues a long and rich tradition in Staten Island. The 83-acre site, founded in 1801 as a retirement home for sailors, once housed some 900 residents from around the world who lived in a self-sustaining community (including a working farm). By the 1960s, the site came under threat of development until the newly formed landmarks commission designated Snug Harbor’s major buildings New York City’s first landmark structures.
As a site for education as well as production, Heritage Farm also reflects Staten Island’s larger history as an agricultural hub for the city. By the 1840s, almost half of the island was farmland, its farmers having easy access to Manhattan markets. In the mid-19th century, it became a laboratory for the improvement of agricultural methods—efforts led by a group of naturalists that included Central Park designer Frederick Law Olmsted who owned a farm there. Staten Island’s last commercial farm—its last, that is, until the current agricultural revival—closed in 1979.
Snug Harbor’s Heritage Farm is cared for in an environmentally sustainable manner so that it will claim permanence on Staten Island and continue to produce fresh fruits and vegetables for years to come. Currently, Heritage Farm is dramatically changing perspectives, increasing awareness about the importance of eating locally, and improving the quality of life for those who live in, work in, or visit the New York City area.
Text source: Edible Brooklyn