|Should you go?
|Best thing I saw or learned
|In the dormant children’s garden, the sign for Egyptian walking onions, which I learned are a type of perennial onion.
This is a necessarily incomplete review. Visiting a “farm museum” in midwinter is not a recipe for seeing the place at its best, busiest, or most inviting. Indeed, I’m not sure why the Queens County Farm Museum doesn’t just shut down from December til March. But it was open and it’s on my list. So I gathered an intrepid friend and we trooped out to the far eastern fringes of Queens, where New York City blurs into Nassau County, to get the lay of the land.
I imagine this place exists mainly so that city kids can learn that chickens come in forms other than McNuggets and wool doesn’t start out life as a sweater. And I bet most visitors arrive on school buses.
The Farm in Winter
I’m sure that in more clement seasons the 40+ acres of grounds are verdant and bucolic. This time of year, not so much.
On a winter weekday, the only things to see are the livestock and some dormant farm equipment. A couple of alpacas, some goats, a few sheep, a couple of cows, and a whole flock of laying hens. Indeed on that last point, you can buy farm fresh eggs at the gift shop when it’s not winter (hens apparently don’t do much laying in cold months). You can also get farm-fresh honey and alpaca yarn at the gift shop.
As I was flying the coop a touring school group came crowding around to look at the birds. One kid asked if he could pet them, the answer to which was a resounding “no!” Chickens like to peck. And as I got further away I thought I heard a kid say “KFC! KFC!” However, I was almost out of earshot. It might have been “I can’t see! I can’t see!”
A Little History
The origins of today’s farm museum extend all the way back to an actual farm founded in 1697, though there aren’t any physical traces from that era. The grounds do still have an historic house belonging to the Adriance family, dating to just before the American Revolution.
The Adriances kept the place in their family for about a century, before it passed quickly through a succession of other farming families, and from there to the Creedmoor State Hospital, which owned and operated it from 1926 through the 1970s.
Creedmoor is a nearby psychiatric hospital associated with this and another New York museum, the Living Museum (review coming very soon). Creedmoor used the farm for rehabilitation and to grow food for patients, and flowers and ornamental plants to brighten its campus.
As Creedmoor’s population shrank, it had less need of its own farm, and so the place spun off into a museum in 1975.
Should You Visit the Farm?
The Queens County Farm Museum website claims that its receives 500,000 visitors annually, making it “the highest attended cultural institution in Queens County.” I feel skeptical about the superlative given that the borough is home to New York’s great contemporary bastion of tragedy (and occasional farce), Citifield. But it likely is the highest attendance of a Queens County museum.
Regardless of the myriads of others who go, should you?
Certainly you shouldn’t visit the farm in the dead of February. Most of the buildings are shut down, there’s no public greenhouses like the New York and Brooklyn Botanic Gardens or Wave Hill have, and the various zoos offer more convenient places to encounter a goat if you feel inclined to do that.
I felt disappointed in the place from a learning perspective; I wanted more in the way of explanatory texts. Even with fields fallow, the place could explain what farms do during the winter. But perhaps they have an awesome brochure, or do a great guides/docents/explainers program in warmer seasons. I will have to come back.
The largest downside to the Queens County Farm Museum is its location. For anyone coming from more central parts of the city it’s decidedly inconvenient. You have to really want to go (and ideally have a car).
Additionally, I didn’t see much attraction for grown-ups. Buying farmstand stuff grown right there would be neat, but New York these days is blessed with an abundance of farmers markets offering terrific produce. But I reckon the Queens County Farm Museum offers a fascinating and eye-opening experience for city kids. And New York has nothing else quite like it.
|73-50 Little Neck Parkway, Floral Park, Queens
|General Admission: Free
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