After nearly four months of solitude, the Queens County Farm Museum is opening its doors once again to the public and it’s hard to tell who is more excited: the visitors or the animals.
“From the moment that we closed Queens Farm to the public our organization began thinking about its reopening,” said Jennifer Walden Weprin, the farm’s executive director. “We can only imagine that it was strange for our animals to only see our farmers and no visitors these last few months! Our flocks are quite friendly and are used to interacting with the public.”
In the early days of the pandemic, the Queens Farm offered digital programming to keep its audience engaged with nature and its animals, but since reopening on Aug. 2, the 323-year-old farm offers the opportunity for visitors to physically connect with the facility — though the petting zoo is indefinitely closed in compliance with COVID-19 safety guidelines, visitors can hand-feed some of the farm animals, an experience that can act as a form of therapy during a stressful time.
“In these times of social distancing, observing our sheep, goats, alpacas, steer and hens offers connection and calm. It’s hard not to smile when visiting with them,” said Weprin. “Studies have shown that time spent in nature can help relieve stress and anxiety. After weeks of quarantine and social distancing, it does seem as though people are seeking time spent outdoors and the farm’s environs can offer this support.”
The Queens Farm made some small changes to adapt to the pandemic era, such as implementing one-way traffic inside its buildings and taking the temperature of each individual upon entering, for the safety of visitors, farmers and animals, but many of its famous characteristics remain the same — its on-site farmstand opened July 8.
The farm grows over 200 varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs using sustainable, organic-style farming methods. Visitors can walk the grounds and watch farmers harvest the crops before heading to the farmstand, located at the front entrance of the campus, and purchase their own produce to take home. The farmstand operates Wednesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. until Nov. 1.
“Our community looks forward to our seasonal farmstand. Growing food for our local community is an important part of the farm’s mission and now it’s even more critical as people are looking for fresh, hyper-local food,” said Weprin, adding that the farm donated 600 dozen eggs and 1300 pounds of produce to a Flushing food pantry.
Although it’s not accessible beyond its fence, the farm’s growing and colorful apiary can be viewed by visitors. The beehive, located near the farm’s compost corner, is expected to be completed in the fall, at which point it will hold 50 beehives and over two million bees, and increase the farm’s production of honey to about 3,000 pounds a year. The project, done in partnership with Cornell University’s Dyce Lab for Honey Bee Studies and beekeeper Andrew Coté, will create the largest single apiary in New York City.
Also not accessible until the fall but available for viewing is the 3-acre cornfield that will become the Amazing Maize Maze come autumn, which isn’t too far away — the maze will open Sunday, Sept. 13, and run Fridays through Sundays until Oct. 31.
Though the fall and the farm’s upcoming events don’t seem so far away, Weprin and the other farm staff are relishing in the last few weeks of summer and finally being able to spend it with their visitors.
“Now that New York State metrics allow New York City to carefully reopen, Queens Farm’s 47-acre historic site can serve as a refuge. It’s so beautiful on the farm now – the sunflowers look gorgeous, and the 3-acre corn maze is growing tall and strong!” said Weprin.
For more information on Queens County Farm Museum events, program details and COVID-19 safety guidelines, call (718) 347-3276 or visit queensfarm.org