Illustrations Joseph Kaplan
With all that’s blooming on Brooklyn’s urban farms lately, it’s easy to forget that, just half an hour or so outside city limits, there’re vast reaches of unclaimed land. Such was the conclusion that Brooklyn gardener and beekeeper Megan Paska came to after her backyard in Greenpoint proved insufficient for all her agricultural activity (which includes tending rabbits, heritage egg-laying hens and hives producing her own CSA shares of Brooklyn Honey). Teaming up with Seven Arrows yoga and wellness retreat in Locust, NJ, Megan is determined to break ground on an expansive new homesteading project with an educational twist. Next year, Megan plans to have a fully operational farm on 20 acres of waterfront land. In addition to providing agricultural workshops and farm-to-table meals at Seven Arrows, she and her partner Neil will host educational videos online, so that everyone back home in Brooklyn can learn about everything from beekeeping to food preservation.
We caught up with Megan about the new venture, described in more detail in her current Kickstarter campaign, which runs until July 5 and will finance infrastructure for the farm (gifts for donors include a jar of that honey).
Why did you decide to make the leap from “homesteading” in Brooklyn to rural NJ?
I had been farming part time in the Catskills all last season and loved it, so I started looking for places near the city that I could live and farm. I didn’t want to completely cut myself off from all the work I had been doing here, or my personal and professional relationships. I figured there had to be someplace where I could have the best of both worlds: proximity to culture and resources, and space to explore homesteading and small-scale farming in a way that didn’t feel so much like fitting a square peg into a round hole.
What will you miss about gardening, raising chickens and beekeeping in Brooklyn?
I won’t miss the limitations, but I will really miss changing people’s minds about the practicality of growing food, raising small livestock or keeping bees for one’s own uses. If you only seek to feed yourself and your family and neighbors, you can accomplish that pretty easily here. And it is so needed. Having a relationship with soil and growing things is a big part of the human experience. I’ve never understood people who keep plastic flowers in planters on their stoop instead of real ones—a common sight in Greenpoint—but I digress. I loved being in a position to lead by example. Fortunately, many have taken up the practice of urban farming, so there is no shortage of great examples to learn from.