Rooftop Farm Welcomes Toddlers


Farm Project Opens For Final Winter

A welcome sign greets visitors to the Hell’s Kitchen Farm Project, open until November 13. Photo: Qi Chen.

Standing in the center of a circle of preschoolers, holding a pack of cabbage seeds, Lauren Baccus asked, “Who likes salad?” “I don’t!” shouted Harry, a four-year-old boy. “You might like it if you grew it, though — That’s what farmers say,” Baccus replied with a smile.

Baccus and the children were at the Hell’s Kitchen Farm Project (HKFP), a farm located on the roof of Metro Baptist Church at West 40th Street and Ninth Avenue. Recently a group of 20 children from 43rd Street Kids Preschool came to the farm for the first time to learn about alternative gardens in the city. The re-opening of Alice’s Garden, a public garden on West 34th Street that was formerly cared for by Alice Parsekian, a local gardener who died in 2010, encouraged both the CHDC and community members in Hell’s Kitchen to build educational outreach with public garden tours.

Baccus is the community coordinator for the Clinton Housing Development Company (CHDC), which manages both the rooftop farm and public gardens. She and Anna Haas, a gardener from the Clinton Community Garden on West 48th Street, directed the group of children to various patches of soil that were spread out onto the 800 square-feet roof and asked them to pull small carrots, which they rinsed off with a watering hose and ate.

Viggo, four years old, walked around with a carrot the size of his finger. “It’s too hard,” he complained. Like many of the children, he was more interested in pulling up more carrots from the soil. “Don’t pull it up if you’re not gonna eat it!” warned Nancy Lilienthal, the director of 43rd Street Kids Preschool. Haas also had the children plant carrot and mint seeds, showing them how to use a small rake to smooth the top of the soil, and explaining to them the importance of keeping the soil porous to simulate soil in the ground.

The preschoolers were invited to visit the farm again in the spring, where they may see the growth of the seeds they had planted. For Baccus, teaching the children a sense of neighborhood connection is the most important. “We want to cultivate community,” she said. The rooftop farm, which opens to the public every Tuesday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., will have its year-end Fall Harvest event on November 13, where the final batch of produce will be sold to raise funds for the next planting season. The farm will then be on hiatus until next February.