Y’all know what these are about…
Who are you? If you mean generally, we are City Free Farm, an organization that teaches responsible food production and promotes access to healthy food (among other things), operating in New York City with particular geographic ties to the Bushwick neighborhood. Our motto is give-as-you-can, take-as-you-need. Our original farm is called Bushwick City Farm, which, out of habit, is generally how you’ll hear us refer to ourselves, and which is located on Broadway in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Our expansion is known as the Stockton Farm.
If you mean more personally, we are a core group of volunteers, some of whom have been involved for a long time, some of whom are new, and several of whom come and go depending on personal schedules and adventures. Masha and Vinny are the reigning authorities, though, as they are responsible for starting everything.
We are not yet incorporated as a 501(c)(3)…but we’re workin’ on it!
Do you offer individual plots, like community share gardens do? We do not. You should feel absolutely welcome to come by during the hours listed on the “Hours” page to help plant, garden, harvest and hand-out on a give-as-you-can basis, but we grow our plants as a community and back to the community they go on a take-as-you-need basis. Which is not to say you might not need lettuce that week…but as we’re going on the honor system, we’ll trust that you really need it.
Do you have a compost program? We do! Compost bins made with re-purposed non-toxic free materials harvested from the community are located at the Broadway Farm. Similar bins will also eventually be on site at the Stockton Farm. If you’re the composting type, you can come by with your week’s wares during open hours to see your refuse into its next stage as nutrient-rich pre-soil. If you can’t make it during the open hours, unofficially, people have been known to hang plastic bags with coffee grinds and orange peels and other compost-worthy items from the gate for the volunteers to add to the bins at a later time.
Speaking in more widespread terms, we also do outreach with area schools and set them up with compost bins and/or compost education. If you have further questions or tips, let us know!
Do you offer ESL classes? Si. Check out our events page for information on ongoing/upcoming opportunities. If you’re a certified ESL teacher (or in the process of getting certification) and would like to volunteer your mad instruction skills, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject: I Would Like to Teach ESL.
What about other classes? Yes. It depends on the time of the year, but a variety of classes and workshops are offered, covering everything from fitness to sustainable farming to survivalism (a different kind than the type you need to live here). We have plans to expand the subject matter as the City Free Farm continues to grow, but if you have strong opinions, you can always let us know.
Are your chickens for sale or give-away? No. They are community garden chickens, so you’re welcome to come say hi and spend time with them when the farm is open. But they stay in their weatherized coop, as that is where they feel comfortable and an appropriate amount of autonomy…or so they tell us.
So I can spend time with them? Yes…on their turf.
Can I pet them? Very gently, under the supervision of a volunteer, if the chickens are in the mood.
Can I hold them? Only in your heart.
What do they eat? Can I feed them? A mixture of cracked corn, veggies, chicken feed, and the occasional oyster shell. They also drink water. Sometimes, they get really excited to find a cockroach (they’re the only ones). And yes, if you come by during open hours, a volunteer can hook you up with some food on-site, and you can watch yourself become the most popular thing to ever walk the chicken yard…for ten seconds. They won’t hurt you, but they aren’t shy if they think you have some food. That said, please stick to only feeding them what the volunteers give you, and nothing else.
Where did these chickens come from? It’s a bit of a mix but most hailed from (or their parents hailed from) nearby live poultry stores, which populate Bushwick. As such, many of these birds spent the first parts of their lives in cramped quarters, undernourished and fighting for space with several others. If you take a close look, you’ll see several are missing the top parts of their beaks. This is because it is common practice for these live poultry stores to clip them off in the interest of avoiding beak sharpness. It’s cruel and it hurts the birds. And, the beaks don’t grow back, which means it’s even harder for them to get food. We aren’t vegetarians (mostly) at the farm, but we do advocate, support, and encourage responsible farming and humane treatment of animals, and respect for things even if you’re more inclined to look at hens as dinner than as personalities. We’re happy we can provide a kinder, longer life to at least a few of these birds, though they’re just a small percentage.
Is it just chickens? It’s mostly chickens. It’s also ducks, guinea hens, one turkey, and several cats.
Are your cats for sale or give-away? No. Just like the chickens and the other birds, you can come visit them when the farm is open, but they’re pretty feral and they’re not generally people-lovers, so they’re not house cats. They actually pride themselves on being dirty and having free space to catch rats. That’s how they pay their rent.
Can I pet the cats? If they let you get close enough, you can certainly try…under the supervision of a volunteer. But, again, they’re feral. Also, holding them is absolutely out.
Can I feed the cats? Please don’t. They have food.
Where do you get your cats? For those new to Bushwick, you’ll soon realize that there are an enormous number of stray, feral cats. Some of our cats have hailed from the nearby streets. Others have come from not-quite-as-nearby streets in other neighborhoods, through a catch, neuter and release program. Either way, all cats have received inoculations and have been fixed, and seem to enjoy living our their lives in a yard full of fowl.
How does that work? Do the cats bother the chickens? It’s actually the other way around, if at all…in the sense that the cats seem to be more intimidated by the chickens. The cats are there to rat. If they weren’t, the rats would attack the chickens. So, the cats are our primary line of defense for our feathered friends. In exchange for their hardcore Rambo work, they have insulated shelters, food and water, and each other’s company. And a pretty kicking garden in the summer.
What is in that garden? We usually have some mix of figs, squash, eggplant, greenbeans, tomatoes, berries, lettuce, kale, and more tomatoes. We’re also working on getting a little apiary going for honey.
Where do you get all this stuff? Everything we use is free or donated, usually from the nearby community. We’ve been incredibly lucky, and we’re incredibly grateful, for the ongoing support of other urban farmers and community members who teach us about bees, give us seeds, and provide scrap wood and other materials.
Are you looking for volunteers? Absolutely. Just check our “Hours” page to figure out a time to come by. No experience is necessary, but if you can offer something specific that might benefit the community, please shoot us an email or speak to us when you come by the farm. Otherwise, we need plenty of general help on the weekends as well.