The Randall’s Island Park Alliance’s Urban Farm is a 40,000 square foot environmentally sustainable farm and outdoor classroom at Randall’s Island Park. Since its inception in 2006, the Urban Farm has grown in size and scope—now featuring over 100 raised beds, two greenhouses, four rice paddies, and a small fruit tree orchard. With over 200 varieties of fruits and vegetables from around the world, the Urban Farm provides visitors across New York City with the opportunity to deepen their understanding of where food comes from. Through hands-on classes and free public events focused on sustainability, cooking, planting, and composting, farm visitors of all ages can explore locally grown food in an urban environment.
School groups can visit the Urban Farm through our Edible Education Program. In addition, the public is invited to visit for our annual special events, weekend workshops, volunteer days, and open hours during the growing season.
The Urban Farm is located at the southern end of the island, adjacent to the Park’s playground, a picnic area, playing fields and comfort station.
The Urban Farm grows over 3,500 pounds of food each year. The Urban Farm donates a significant portion of this fresh food to a local food pantry. Students participating in the Urban Farm’s Edible Education programs can taste a variety of fruits and vegetables in the field and harvest ingredients to make nutritious and delicious dishes in the Farm’s outdoor kitchen. Throughout the growing season, the Urban Farm partners with local chefs, who lead cooking workshops that feature the Farm’s food and draw from the Chefs’ backgrounds.
The Farm has been designed with the core belief that when education is put at the forefront of a farm’s design, plants and children can grow side by side. The Tot Lot is a farm-inspired play area for children of all ages. It features a dig bed, flower shaped chalkboards, a farmhouse-style free library, pollinator themed “rocking chairs,” herbs to engage all five senses, child-sized tools, and a farm stand. Leading into the Tot Lot is a tunnel, doubling as a play-space for children and trellis for growing climbing plants for visitors to taste.
Students and volunteers help maintain the farm’s three-bin compost system, by regularly processing food scraps and turning each bin by hand. In addition to hand-aerating, the compost bins are also fed by a solar-powered forced-air system (a gift from Green Mountain Energy’s Sun Club). A small fan, powered by a solar panel, forces air through compost piles. That air provides oxygen to diverse beneficial insects, invertebrates, bacteria and fungi, which in turn break down food scraps. Students in the classes apply the compost created on the farm to the vegetable beds, learning valuable lessons in cultivating healthy soils and vegetables all at once.
The Urban Farm utilizes sustainable agricultural practices that support soil fertility and increase biodiversity on the farm. Careful crop rotation enables plants to draw different nutrients from the soil each year and discourages the spread of pests and diseases and the need for chemical pesticides. Instead, the Urban Farm uses integrated pest management practices, like using netting or row cover to discourage large animals, releasing natural predators, planting disease resistant crop varieties, or removing pests by hand. These practices ensure that a range of animals and insects can still visit the farm without causing serious damage to the plants. In addition to adding compost to beds, the Urban Farm plants cover crops that benefit the soil, like oats, buckwheat, and peas, which build nitrogen levels.