Brady Farm offers ‘tranquil kind of oasis’ in Valley
By Tom Maguire | Associate editor
The Brady Faith Center Urban Farm’s cherry tomato is a compact little world — crunching down on the dry exterior yields a sweet scrumptiousness, like an instant salad ingredient with its own juicy dressing.
The farm’s other tomato varieties likewise can set the mind boiling with cooking and dining possibilities — so shiny and inviting; which one to pick?
Offered are slicing, cherry, and paste tomatoes. Varieties include Yellow Brandywine, Pink Wonder, Pink Beauty, Bigdena, Cauralina, Sungold, and Indigo Apple.
The farm next to Onondaga Creek in the Valley section of Syracuse attracted visitors amid music and sunshine during ON Farm Fest, a day of tours Sept. 21 at various farms in Onondaga County.
Blues musician Bobby Green & A Cut Above played guitar and kids walked around with their faces painted as Brady Farm showed off its two high tunnels (greenhouses) and many rows of crops.
Tending to the 5.8-acre plot of land is one of the ministries of the nearby Brady Faith Center, whose goal is to serve as an oasis of “peace, hope, and justice” on the south side of Syracuse.
“We’re trying to use this plot of land to improve our community,” said Farm Coordinator Jessi Lyons: “One, by growing food, but growing food is just really the vehicle for providing education, providing opportunities for employment, but also helping to feed our neighborhood and our community. So this is really a tranquil kind of oasis in a lot of ways in the community.”
Last year the farm employed about a dozen people; this year there were seven workers earning a wage, and about two other fulltime positions were made up by the very helpful volunteers.
Crops sold in the city
Volunteer Telia Canion helps out at special events and she likes to sell Brady Farm’s produce on Saturdays at the Central New York Regional Market on the north side of Syracuse. The farm itself has a stand on Saturdays at 150 Ford Ave., off Valley Drive, and it sells subscriptions called CSAs — Community Supported Agriculture.
“Volunteering here, it gives me serenity, gives me peace of mind,” Canion said. She added that she has lost weight eating produce from the farm. She pitches the tomatoes because, combined with melons, she said, they make “a perfect garden salad.”
A man approached her tomato selection:
“Can I get some of these?”
“The green tomatoes?”
“How many you need?”
“All of those.”
This year, the farm’s high tunnel–endeavor yielded an extra month of tomatoes and peppers, Coordinator Lyons said. During ON Farm Fest, one of the tunnels held a limited supply of small pie pumpkins set aside for CSA customers.
Also, the farm increased the amount of space under production, so it produced a lot more food this year.
Goals include adding another high tunnel and improving the washing station in order to receive GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certification from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Once we get GAP certification we’ll be able to sell to different venues,” Lyons said, “things like grocery stores and wholesalers.”
The farm cannot be certified as organic because it cannot control how the surrounding property owners use their land. But “we use organic methods,” Lyons said, “we follow organic standards.”
“We do donate our excess produce to neighborhood organizations and neighbors,” she said, “and then we also sell it at a very fair price. So we don’t charge organic prices even though we’re growing organically, and we definitely have the cost challenges of growing organically; we’re still committed to making the food affordable to our neighbors.”
Starting in November will be a winter CSA — people can sign up to get a weekly half-bushel box of green produce they pick up. Go to bradyfarm.org and click on “CSA.” The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and the phone number is 315-420-4521.
Brady Faith Center board member Eileen Clinton and her husband, Jim, purchased assorted vegetables during ON Farm Fest — carrots, green peppers, yellow peppers, a pumpkin about three inches in diameter, and red beets — little dark bulb-shaped veggies. Jim said a farm worker recommended sautéing the peppers with olive oil and putting them over brown rice.
And the red beets? “You boil them and the skin comes right off,” Jim said.
“I’m on the board because I believe in the mission, what they’re trying to do,” Eileen said, noting that Brady Faith Center has more than a dozen programs, including the farm, Bible study, and Pedal 2 Possibilities. The latter program “encourages program participants to take control of their own fitness and well-being by committing to regular bike excursions,” according to the faith center’s website.
In addition to crops, Brady Farm offers education to children.
“Little kids who know what a Hostess is or McDonald’s hamburger now get to know what a carrot is, a green pepper,” Jim said.
There is also a classroom space for kids.
A visitor inquired about the tomato varieties.
“You can try one if you want to,” volunteer Canion said.