Late in August I took a subway, a bus, missed my stop, walked, and took another bus. My destination? Brooklyn Grange. It’s one of the world’s largest rooftop farms, growing 50,000 lbs of organically-cultivated produce per year and totally worth the trek. Located in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the only hint of the farm from below is bright yellow sunflowers bowing over the side of the building. I emerged from the stairwell into another world. A world of bees and sunflowers and produce growing high above the city. My city. My community. Much of what we consider “sustainable” is borne out in our communities daily by way of qualities like low carbon footprints and job creation. Community is important to me, so I was delighted to attend a Field to Vase Dinner at Brooklyn Grange.
The Field to Vase Dinner Tour is is a 10-city tour for Certified American Grown farmers who believe that the flowers at the center of the table should be as fresh, local, and sustainable as the food on the plate. The communal dining experience celebrates local farms, flowers, florists, food, beer, and wine in each city — a floral twist on the farm-to-fork concept.
Head farmer and president of Brooklyn Grange, Ben Flanner, explained the mission of the farm — to create a fiscally sustainable model for urban agriculture and to produce healthy, delicious vegetables for the local community, all on the rooftops and unused spaces of New York City. What could be more community-minded than the dirt that grounds a city, providing food, flowers, and natural landscapes for residents?
The backdrop of the night was simply dressed with white linens and folding chairs, but the significance was grand. I heard someone say, “Everything that is good about America is happening here tonight.” Everything good included promoting American jobs, supporting developmentally disabled adults, encouraging local and seasonal agriculture, supporting community, and celebrating all of these good things with neighbors and friends.
The simple table settings showcased the floral designs of Molly Culver (you’ll remember her from my Bloom event). Molly, of the Youth Farm and Molly Oliver Flowers, creates beautiful arrangements featuring locally-grown, seasonal blooms. This community-centered approach is integral to her business and mission to promote local flowers. The arrangements for the night reflected Molly’s wild and unpredictable aesthetic, made possible by flowers from local growers The Flower Peddler, The Youth Farm, Butternut Gardens, Duva Farm, The River Garden, Rose Meadow Farm, and Lily Bruder.
SMILE Farms of Garden City, a certified American Grown farm, supplied all of the potted plants and flowers for the evening. They provide work opportunities to developmentally disabled adults at local farms, urban gardens, and greenhouses in communities throughout the country. “We are proud to partner with SMILE Farms on this unique dining experience,” said Kasey Cronquist, administrator of the Certified American Grown campaign.
Amidst rows of organically grown vegetables included in the evening’s dinner, Thomas Kearney, executive chef and partner at The Farm on Adderly, prepared family-style dishes featuring seasonal ingredients. Summer crops like tomatoes, plums, blackberries, squash, and pole beans comprised much of the menu. The freshness was unparalleled and I especially enjoyed the new crop potatoes and stuffed squash, which I happily stuffed myself with.
The company was also outstanding. I finally met Debra Prinzing, founder of Slow Flowers, in person. Her passion for local flowers, farmers, and florists is contagious. She introduced me to many new floral designers and growers over the course of the evening. During dinner, Alden and I sat across from Mike and Theresa of Deseo dé Michael, the white wine vintner for the evening. Their OR Wine, from a small family-owned vineyard in North Fork, specializes in exclusive limited release chardonnays. Only 140 cases a year, all hand done.
Truly this was one of the best events I've been to. It was a genuine celebration of people doing what they love. The Field to Vase Dinner Tour continues throughout 2015, taking place across the country on American flower farms in both urban and rural settings. The series treats locavores and flower fans alike to an exceptional dining experience with seasonal, local, and sustainable American Grown flowers at the center of the table and conversation. There are 4 more cities on the tour. See if yours is one of them.
Brooklyn Grange has space for dinner parties, wedding ceremonies, and film screenings. They also host educational tours and workshops. Check out their upcoming events or visit their open houses every Saturday through October.
Molly Oliver Flowers offers full-service floral design for events and weddings as well as DIY wedding support if you only need gorgeous local flowers. Contact them here.
And finally, look for the Certified American Grown brand and logo to be assured that the flowers you purchase come from a domestic American flower farm. Find out more about Certified American Grown flowers here.
All photos by Linda Blue.