Farm City

As research for of the upcoming Communal Table pickle making workshop at the Old Stone House in September, I've been visiting the farms we'll be buying produce from (the farms are part of a tour during the Farm City event... itself part of Crossing the Life festival http://www.fiaf.org/crossingtheline/2010/2010-09-ctl-farmcity-tour.shtml which we'll be part of. This past week I visited the East NY Farmer's Market over on New Lots Ave, the Hattie Carthan Community Gardens in Bed-Sty, and BK Farmyard's acre on the lawn of the High School for Public Service in Crown Hts. All three of these gardens nurture youth empowerment, community activism and food justice, and the markets offer fresh and affordable vegetables in neighborhoods fresh vegetables are hard to come by.

Tooling around in my car, getting lost (poor sense of direction) and becoming found, seeing my beloved city anew with each foray, I am forever awed by the expanse of NYC- by the vast riches of culture but also by the scope of poverty and the divides between neighborhoods. Often, driving through the vastness of Brooklyn I despair the possibility of creating a more just and peaceful world. These markets are bright spots bursting with goodwill and hopeful energy, and for me, getting to talk with people I would not ordinarily meet is a joyful experience nearing the spiritual.

I bought half a dozen empanadas, tasted peanut punch and spice bread, learned about a new squash varietal and saw the magnificently lewd red seeds (?) that are inside a ripe bitter melon. I saw people taking care, kids proud and learning, listened to the sing song of vendors, smelled the perfume of sage. I realized again that in the narrowness of daily life the assumptions and thoughts that flow from limitation must be vigilantly challenged, and that a wonderful way to do this is to stand in a market and take it all in. Then take the goodness home and cook something to share with family; it is a joyful experience nearing the spiritual.

Meanwhile, it made me realize Deena and I have to totally rethink the menu we're planning for the Farm City Tour. Weeks ago, writing the proposal for this event I was thinking about what might be ripe during Brooklyn's September, and I ran these produce selections through my brains storeroom of tried and true recipes. I didn't even think to consider bitter melon or cucuzza squash or callaloo or peanut juice or spicy empanadas. What was I thinking?

Brooklyn farms are most importantly about her people and their stories, more so than about the actual vegetables. The acreage is small but the yield is mighty. Communal Table's great opportunity will be to pickle and preserve a tiny bit of it.

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