The Farm On Kent sits at the foot of the former Domino Sugar Factory, an ominous building that once produced half of the country’s sugar, but now resembles something not too far from a scary movie set. The space surrounding it is industrial, piled high with all the signs of a construction zone. Except for one place,
The Farm On Kent
. Founded by Ryan Watson and Henry Sweets, the farm is a green oasis in the middle of a distinctly urban setting. Over the summer of 2015, Watson and Sweets joined forces with Jimmy Carbone, owner of
Jimmys No. 43
in the East Village, to create
, a series of evenings on the farm marked by good food, good drinks, good company, and surroundings found nowhere else. We chatted with Carbone and Watson to delve a little deeper into the farm and the events plays host to.
HOW DID THE FOODKARMA EVENTS COME ABOUT? WHAT INSPIRED THEM?
I’ve been producing special culinary events in NYC since 2008, when I was co-chair of the public school fundraiser, Taste of Tribeca. Fast forward to 2015, I was looking for some new space to create events in. The Farm On Kent was only a demolition site in the shadow of the Domino Sugar factory. The team, Henry and Ryan, were cool. I imagined nights in the summer eating and drinking on the East River, watching the sunset, all while working with my favorite local chefs ,winemakers, brewers, distillers, cider-makers….
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY FROM BRINGING THIS PROJECT TO LIFE?
The dream was to bring cidermaker Andy Brennan down from Sullivan County for a feast. He agreed and brought special ciders, scrumpies, and other limited beverages. A true NY original hero!
Pier 1 Imports
WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FOR FOODKARMA?
The farm is a pop-up and was built in a short time on top of a demolition site. The day of our first event, the farm crew was still finishing the site while we cooked. They were amazing, got the job done, and we celebrated!
WHAT COMPONENT OF THIS PROJECT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
Creating and developing a food festival in a new spot. Working with Ryan and Henry on the farm from the beginning when it was just a demolition site. And becoming part of a cool new happening.
WHAT’S THE BEST REACTION TO FOODKARMA EVENTS THAT YOU’VE HEARD SO FAR?
Sunsets! Best views in NYC. I’m a big fan of hosting events in NYC near the water.
IN FOUNDING THE FARM ON KENT, WHAT WAS YOUR GOAL?
Our goal is to actualize vacant property to show it’s potential, building community space even on a temporary basis. Sometimes spaces like these will go vacant for decades. Our intention was always to build farmspace in these vacant properties. by creating both an urban farm and public greenspace. We were able to highlight the needs of the community and address that head on.
WHAT IS THE BEST REACTION YOU’VE HEARD TO FOODKARMA SO FAR?
The first events were Sunday suppers. The easiest way, that seemed the most clear for the farm, was to make food that would be shared over a communal table. FoodKarma is an extension of that. We have people come together with music, food, etc., to connect with each other, and have a space to enjoy each other’s company. We want to create an urban oasis feeling.
The amount of times we’ve been told “I can’t remember the last time I did this” –that’s what we are going for. Bringing those experiences back into the city. Space is such a commodity, often you don’t find a place to relax, especially a green one.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT BEING ON THE FARM?
All the people, the community that’s grown around it. seeing little kids running around, dogs playing, all of the faces and families that we’ve come to know. It makes it feel like I live in a small town. We feel connected to the neighborhood and the community.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY OF FOODKARMA?
Sitting off to the side and seeing people walk in, seeing their reactions. They walk in and the look on their face is one of disbelief, they can’t believe it exists. I saw a tweet a few weeks ago: “This is the New York City that only exists in movies.”