There will soon be more chickens clucking ironically in Bushwick.
The Bushwick City Farm, a grassroots, all-volunteer farm started on a vacant Broadway lot four years ago, is now fixing up a much larger lot around the corner on Stockton Street at Lexis Avenue.
Volunteer Spike Appel, 27, said that moving into the Stockton Street lot across from Sumner Houses was a natural extension of the work they’ve been doing on Broadway.
“It was a dirty place and there was a lot of trash and rats,” Appel said of the previous condition of the Stockton Street lot. “With more space, we could produce more food and reach out to more of the kids from the projects across the street.”
Last fall farm volunteers built 15 raised beds for the Stockton Street farm — many of which are growing winter crops kept warm under sheets of plastic. Now, the volunteers are completing a chicken coop, so that there can be egg-producing birds on both lots. In the spring, they plan to build another 20 raised beds. Volunteers are invited to help out from 12:30 pm to sundown Saturdays and Sundays.
The Bushwick City Farm does not have leases for either of the lots. Instead, they have permission from the property owners, who can’t build on the spaces and are happy to have someone maintain them.
The soil on both lots is probably contaminated, so the volunteers only plant on raised beds filled with organic soil brought in from Long Island.
The farm’s programs range from growing organic food and raising birds with the help of neighborhood kids, to handing out freshly grown food to the neighbors. The farm also collects and distributes donated clothing and offers free English lessons to adults.
“It’s a great way to teach kids skills they would never normally learn in the city,” said Jason Reis, who has been serving as volunteer farm manager. “It’s pretty unique. I can’t think of anywhere else in New York City where everything they produce is totally free.”
The chicken coops don’t only house chickens. They also have the random pheasant, turkey, duck and whatever other kind of rescue birds the neighbors bring over.
When the weather gets warmer, kids from a woodworking class at Lyons Community School will build a gazebo on the Stockton Street lot, which is nearly four times the size of the Broadway lot. But kids from the neighborhoods are helping to build the coop.
On a weekend afternoon last week, four kids from the Sumner Houses gathered at the farm, begging to work on the coop even though temperatures were well-below freezing.
“It’s big and it’s clean and it’s fun. You can go play around,” said 13-year-old P.J. Suarez. “Sometimes I work, but there’s also a lot of sitting and talking.”Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@c