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Red Hook Pumpkin Patch Brings Harvest Time to Kids

By Farran Powell | October 1, 2012 10:48pm | Updated on October 17, 2012 12:42pm

RED HOOK — A pumpkin patch grows in Brooklyn, ringed by towering corn stalks, a row of squash and beans on a plot of farmland across the street from Red Hook's big box store Ikea.

"We've been putting a small patch of pumpkins for several years," said Ian Marvy, the founder and director of Added Value, the organization that operates the Red Hook Community Farm, which offers a closer-to-home alternative for New York City kids who want to see a pumpkin patch.

The Red Hook Community Farm's pumpkin patch opens on Oct. 12 and runs through Oct. 31. The farm will offer tours of the pumpkin patch in the lead up to Halloween.

"Each year, we have between 1,000 and 1,500 students who come from P.S. 15 and Brooklyn's New School for our harvest visits," said Marvy.

Added Value will bring more than 1,200 pumpkins from outside farms to build the pumpkin patch, assembling it a week before the harvest festival.

This year is the farm's eighth annual Red Hook Farm Harvest Festival, a free one-day event held at the farm on Oct. 20, with local musicians, farm-to-table restaurants, a farmer's market and a pumpkin patch.

"It's about the culture of Brooklyn," Marvy said about the festival's lineup, which includes a wide-range of music from reggae to bomba. "It's a marriage of New England meets Brooklyn."

As September wound to a close, staff farmers and volunteers at the Red Hook Community Farm milled through the patch, making final preparations to the vegetable beds for the farm's upcoming October festival.

Looking down at the leaves of squash plants growing around one ropey-looking corn stalk, staff farmer Shayna Lewis searched to find the bed with planted pumpkins.

"They're pumpkins or some type of winter squash," Lewis said as she ran her fingers over the wide, oblong leaves that shade the scarlet runner beans growing underneath. "These are butternut, so these we'll be ready in time for the festival."

The Red Hook Community Farm started as a community initiative in 2001 to provide locals with fresh farm produce for healthier living with its 2.5-acre plot. The farm has youth programs through its nonprofit organization Added Value and sets aside one "educational patch"  to teach students at nearby schools about different cultivation methods.

Students from Red Hook's  P.S. 15 Patrick F. Daly elementary planted the runner beans with corn and squash in the education bed, using the Iroquois' Three Sisters method. "It's a very traditional New England planting that has been around for a thousand years," Marvy said.

The butternut squash and beans in the education bed will be harvested for the farm's festival and the produce will go to the farmer's market or on to an autumn dish at one of the local restaurants using the farm's vegetables.

"It's like pumpkin in terms of a fall squash, and you can make a squash pie and that goes well with the harvest festival," said 25-year-old Corbin Laedlein, Added Value's youth program coordinator. "And, it should be ready in time."

Produce from the fall vegetable beds will be sold at the festival's Farmer's Market and used by local restaurant partners — EC Restaurant, Good Fork, Heaven and Rice — which will serve the farm's produce with seasonal farm-to-table autumn dishes.

Good Fork, a family-run restaurant on 391 Van Brunt St., is one of the food vendors who will serve the locally grown produce at the festival in a squash-infused dish.

"It definitely would be safe to say it will be a fall-like pumpkin soup of some kind," said Ben Schneider, a co-owner of Good Fork. "We will try and use as much product from the farm as we can, and it'll probably have something crispy on top like shallots."

The festival is all part of celebrating the autumn harvest with some big city flair.

"It's Brooklyn with a Brooklyn flavor," said Marvy, who will have political hip-hop duo Rebel Diaz close out the show. "It's a South Brooklyn event, so it's about the diversity of the community."

The Red Hook Harvest Festival is a free event on Oct. 20, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Red Hook Community Farm, 3-49 Halleck Street in Brooklyn. Donations to Value Added are recommended. Pumpkins are priced according to size.