The Added Value Red Hook Community Farm will be celebrating autumn’s bounty by hosting their fifth annual Harvest Festival on Saturday.This isn’t some quaint gathering of locavores: it’s a real party. Over 3,000 people attended last year and more are expected this time around.
The festival will feature organic produce grown on the Red Hook and Governor’s Island farms, as well as sustainably-produced specialties from farmers throughout the region. Food will be served up by local favorites The Good Fork, iCi, Rice, Kevin’s and The Red Hook Lobster Pound. Cooking demos will showcase harvest-season produce. A pumpkin patch (and jack-o-lantern carving station), scavenger hunt and some special animal guests will keep the kids busy and live music by Bomba Yo!, The City Billies, Professor Louis, The Broken Arrowz and Rebel Diaz will keep the party rocking Brooklyn-style all day long.
The Fest is at the Red Hook Farm (580 Columbia St., just across from Ikea), from 10am-5pm and all are welcome.
Ian Marvy, the co-founder and executive director of the farm, took a few minutes to talk with us about this year’s growing season and about the festival.
How was the growing season for you this year?
This year was great in comparison to last when we had the wettest June on record and cold temperatures late into the peak growing season. This year was hot and dry – we are experiencing a drought – but with our irrigation systems we were able to manage it pretty well.
Any particular highlights of the season?
OKRA! We had an incredible okra crop and it continues to be bountiful. Okra is a beautiful plant to grow. It’s a member of the hibiscus family – you get these amazing white hibiscus-like flowers that open up every morning.
Our greens – lettuces, collards, chard, kale and the like – had a great year too, which is not unusual. Our compost soil is really rich in nitrogen, so greens are always great.
We produced significantly more food this year than last. Part of that was due to the weather, but we also had our Governor’s Island Farm fully operational for the first time and that added a lot. Our head farmer, Kristen Schafenacker, is in her 3rd year of farming with us, and she’s really gotten to know the soil and the crops – that’s helped enormously as well. We doubled the size of or CSA this year and made many more sales to local restaurants and other local purveyors.
Any challenges or rough spots?
Well, we didn’t have a great tomato season. Many others had a great year for tomatoes, but we had a late season blight that affected a lot of our crop. But that’s OK – we’re a highly diversified farm, with lots of different varieties of food in the ground, which is exciting and which lets us weather crop-specific problems without too much impact on the farm as a whole.
I know you’ll be showcasing your weekly farmers market at the Harvest Festival – tell us about your market.
About half of the produce at our market each week comes from our Red Hook and Governor’s Island farms, which is all organic and as local as you can get. We also pick up produce from regional, sustainable-minded producers each week at the Bronx Terminal Market. We have regional pasture-raised meats, fruit from Red Jacket Orchards upstate, Ronnybrook Farm milk and dairy…and lots more. Everything we sell at our weekly market is regionally and sustainably sourced.
What are some of your favorite things about the Harvest Fest?
It just feels like a real celebration of fall. Every year it seems that they forecast rain, and every year the sun seems to break out and give us some beautiful crisp, breezy, fall weather. Every year, as the festival starts to wind down, I make a point of finding my way out into the field and I lie down, feel the warmth of the soil and the community, and just reflect on the season. It’s both the end of the season and the pinnacle of the season for me.
This year I’m excited about Rebel Diaz – an internationally-known hip-hop act – playing the festival. They’ve opened for Santana. They’re going to bring serious noise to the farm. They always bring out a young, energized crowd and I love it. When they’re onstage on the farm, it feels like Brooklyn meeting New England in the perfect way – it feels great!