By Julie Shapiro
FINANCIAL DISTRICT — It was open season — planting season, that is — as Battery Park's turkey-shaped farm opened its gates to dozens of young gardeners Monday morning.
"Plant something you want to taste fresh," Warrie Price, president of the Battery Conservancy, told the dozens of first and sixth graders who sunk their hands into the dirt.
Price and Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe knelt down in the soil alongside the students to help them plant a row of broccoli, which should be ready for harvest by mid-summer.
"To have this kind of connection to nature, to the landscape, is so important," Benepe said.
The idea for the 1-acre farm came from students from Millennium High School's Environmental Club, who had struggled to grow plants in their high-rise classrooms on Broad Street.
"It's important to know where your food comes from," said Sylvie Edman, 16, a Millennium junior from Harlem. "Being in the city, you just buy your food at the store and don't think twice. This is hands-on."
So far, more than 650 students from eight schools have signed up to till the 80 vegetable plots, and the Battery Conservancy is also looking for volunteers to help the garden thrive.
In a playful touch, the farm is shaped like a turkey to honor Zelda, Battery Park's beloved resident. A fence of bamboo poles recycled from the Big Bambu exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art marks off shape of the bird's head, tail and body.
Some of the produce grown in the garden will go to the new bistro opening in the New Amsterdam Plein & Pavilion at the Whitehall Ferry Terminal this spring, and some will also go to the two much-anticipated Fatty 'Cue restaurant kiosks opening soon in Battery Park.
"We are only 150 yards from farm to fork," Price said. "We don't have any trucks and we don't have any airplanes."
Fatty 'Cue chef Zak Pelaccio said he could probably incorporate anything the students grow into his menu, but he is particularly looking forward to having fresh chili peppers. The main Fatty 'Cue kiosk will offer dishes similar to the original Williamsburg restaurant by the same name, but with more of an emphasis on sandwiches.
Another kiosk nearby called Fatty Snack will offer ice cream and shaved ices, Pelaccio said.
To give the student gardeners a taste of the eatery's cuisine, Pelaccio dished up small cups of house-smoked honey with goat's milk yogurt and locally-grown apples and beets for them to try Monday morning.
The food earned enthusiastic approval from the students, as did the opportunity to plant a garden.
"It's good because you get to play in the dirt and also you could make pizza because of all the vegetables," said Jack Farber, a first grader at P.S. 276 in Battery Park City. "And all the foods are nutritious."
His classmate Leila Kaufman, 6, said she, too, was eager to try the food she had planted.
"I'm looking forward to eating corn and lettuce," Leila said. "It's very good because it's very healthy food."
The farm is scheduled to stay in place until the end of 2012, when construction will begin there on a new bikeway and perennial garden.