I met the friendly and experienced Zach Pickens at Farm Beginnings, a 10-week course on the business side of farming, last fall. He’s already got a few years of urban farming under his belt at Riverpark, a restaurant perched on the east side of Manhattan which has its own outdoor area carved out for growing its own produce. Zach’s the man in charge of the farm, which is nestled between a high-rise office building and a very active helicopter pad, which is handy for scaring off the deer.
My family has Italian heritage, and to celebrate a certain milestone we took a trip to the old country. Tuscany, in this case. I had been to many parts of Italy but this was my first trip to the Tuscan countryside. It’s pretty amazing to go to a place that looks just like it does in postcards and in old oil paintings. Around every turn was another rolling vista of olive groves and vineyards. The sound carried so far that we could catch snippets of conversation from that house in the righthand distance.
At a farmer’s market in Chianti, we saw some familiar veggies. They all looked like they were popping right out of their crates. I asked about one green I’d never seen before. Called Aggretti, it’s a local delicacy. Apparently it took England by storm a few years ago. We bought some, cooked it up. Good stuff. My uncle found some seeds back in Vermont and was able to grow a few despite the dramatic difference in climate.