Local produce, farm animals, flowers, plants, compost, grass and pavement converged in a carnival of agriculture Saturday.
The Newburgh Urban Farming Fair, the city’s first urban agricultural fair, offered residents a hefty dose of local agriculture on the Safe Harbors Green. The agricultural event took place under fair skies with several hundred visitors attending.
Mid-May is the “traditional” time by when farmers deem it safe for planting to avoid frost, said Cornell Cooperative Orange County Senior Master Gardner Lily Norton. “But we have a micro climate in the City of Newburgh,” said Norton, where it is slightly warmer than surrounding areas because of the sun, pavement, buildings and river.
That said, there are a host of vegetables that can be put in the ground before the last-frost date, she said, carrots, onions and peas included. Pansies are among a handful of frost-resistant flowers, she said.
The fair was collaboration of about a dozen local organizations, including the Downing Park Urban Farm, the Orange County Land Trust, the Newburgh Armory Unity Center and Cornell Cooperative Extension Orange County. About 500 people attended the agricultural event.
Children were treated to workshops on worm composting, a demonstration with pygmy goats and a puppet show by Arm of the Sea Mask and Puppet Theater.
Travis Jones manned the vegetable stall selling organic produce from Blooming Hill Farm in Chester. The stall was stocked with perky heads of kale, lettuce and spinach. Crates held piles of small potatoes and curiously-shaped carrots. “We grow in the black dirt,” said Jones.
The farm will begin selling organic vegetables through its CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) this week, said Jones. Deliveries can be picked up at Atlas Studios on Spring Street.
The farm’s offerings will include greens, root vegetables and peas. Other vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplants will be sold later on in the season, he said. A small share of vegetables sells for $16 and a large share for $24.
Likewise, New Paltz-based Grass + Grits Farm will begin offering residents egg shares through its CSA in July. Eggs will be delivered to Caffé Macchiato on Liberty Street. Eleven dozen eggs cost $77. “People pay up front and get a dozen, fresh, pasture-raised eggs every other week, July through November,” said the farm’s Maddie Morley on Saturday.
“These are made of coconut oil, shea butter and goat’s milk,” said Seacret Braayyiah Gayle, who sold goat’s milk soap made by students at the Center for Hope after-school program.
“We want to start educating residents on what urban agriculture is,” said Virginia Kasinki, outreach manager for the Downing Park Urban Farm. “We want to have more gardens in Newburgh. We want to inspire residents to grow food on their own.”
One of the goals of the fair is to increase access to healthy food while helping to revitalize the economic and social health of the city, the fair’s press release states. Urban gardens such as the Newburgh Armory Unity Center Community Garden and the Center for Hope Garden on Washington Street have already taken root.
Perhaps one the city’s most ambitious urban farming projects is the Downing Park Urban Farm. The farm features greenhouses using locally-harvested bio-mass to heat spaces, aquaponic systems and a seasonal nursery. The farm cultivates indigenous and native species of wildflowers, plants, and trees.
“The urban farm is an education center for agriculture and ecology,” Kasinki said. “We’ll be showing best practices management of urban agriculture and ecology. We’re in the process of installing the farm now.”
May 19 is the date for the first “brown-bag lunch and tour” held by the farm, she said. Later in the season, the farm will offer training for people interested in soil testing and building urban gardens, Kasinki said.
Fair organizers are now discussing the possibility of holding another Newburgh Urban Farming Fair next year, said Kasinki.
By SHANTAL RILEY