With all that's blooming from urban farms in Brooklyn lately, it's easy to forget that just half an hour or so outside city limits there's a vast territory of unclaimed land to farm on. Such was the conclusion that Brooklyn beekeeper, chicken raiser, and gardener Megan Paska came to when her backyard in Greenpoint wasn't sufficient for all her agricultural activity (which include 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. By next spring-fall season, Megan plans to have a fully operational farm on its 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 be hosting educational videos online on everything from beekeeping to food preservation that everyone back home in Brooklyn can learn from.
We caught up with Megan about the new venture, which can be viewed in more detail in her current Kickstarter campaign. The campaign runs until July 5, and will fund infrastructure for the farm while ensuring donors a gift (such as 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 up in the Catskills all last season and I 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, 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.
How did you find Seven Arrows for this project?
Mae Fatto (one of the stewards of Seven Arrows) is an old acquaintance from high school, actually. I had been speaking with a friend who is starting to farm in Portugal, lamenting over my limitations here in NYC and he suggested I reach out to her because she and her partner Lucas had been caring for the property he grew up on and wanted to get someone to grow food there and create programing that would compliment the yoga and wellness workshops they hold periodically at the main house.
We met up, talked about what we both were looking for and it just clicked. I think it's safe to say that the whole lot of us believe that the essential practices of every day whether it be farming, meditation, fitness, eating well, are all connected and when a person incorporates a little bit of all of those things in their lives, something pretty amazing happens. I want Seven Arrows to be a place where people can come to be their happiest and most balanced and take something back home with them to improve the quality of their lives on their own terms.
What will you/do you miss about gardening, chicken raising and beekeeping in Brooklyn?
Well, I wont miss the limitations but I will really miss changing people's minds to the practicality of growing food, raising small livestock or keeping bees for ones 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.
Will your amazing Brooklyn Honey continue, or will you now sell honey from NJ?
I'll still maintain a few hives in Brooklyn for my CSA and to use for educational purposes. Brooklyn Grange have been super supportive friends and even offered a spot for some of my hives next season at their Brooklyn Navy Yard Bee-yard so there's no need for any of my CSA members to panic. The Brooklyn bees are staying!