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October 22, 2008

Sustainable Staycation in Brooklyn's Red Hook

Pumpkin Patch
Pumpkin patching in Red Hook.
Photo: Mollie Chen

by Mollie Chen

While I'm loath to use the word the staycation, the topsy-turvy state of the economy is a compelling reason to explore your own backyard. This weekend I staged my own New York recession adventure, biking to the far corner of Brooklyn for Added Value's annual Red Hook Harvest Festival. This fantastic organization has colonized a 2.75-acre plot into a verdant community farm where local teens and volunteers grow everything from lettuce to pumpkins--despite being in the shadow of Ikea's newest mega-store. It also runs two weekly farmers' markets.

At Saturday's event, there were lectures on seed-saving and canning, African dance performances, live music, and animal petting booths. I had signed up to volunteer and was assigned to the pumpkin-carving station, where I spent a few hours being schooled by precocious kids in the art of jack-o-lanterns (Groucho Marx-like mustaches and eyelashes are in vogue). Here at the magazine we've been focusing on voluntourism and sustainable travel, both of which are fantastic trends with no signs of abating. But for those of us without the means to hop on a plane, there's no reason why you can't go on mini-adventures at home, preferably ones that include outdoor activities and community involvement. And by all means, wrap things up with a delicious treat. After shaking pumpkin seeds out of my hair, I headed to Red Hook's hipsterific Baked for one of their oatmeal, peanut butter, and M&M  "Monster" cookies. 

Further reading:
* The New York Times talks about Added Value
* Dorinda Elliott defines voluntourism
* Responsible Traveler: Making a difference

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