by Amanda Zambito
Riverpark Farm, an urban farm located on the North plaza of the Alexandria Center campus on 450 E 29th Street, is the product of a partnership between Riverpark Restaurant and the Alexandria Center for Life Science. Attached to the Riverpark Restaurant, the farm provides the restaurant with an abundance of fresh ingredients. “Everyone wants to eat what’s local and fresh,” said Chrissa Yee, Project Manager at Riverpark and Riverpark Farms.
Riverpark Farm is not a traditional farm: it is entirely contained in milk crates. “The reason we’re in milk crates is because we knew the farm would have to move. We always knew it would have to be modular and portable. It would have to shift within that space, but also shift within whatever new space we would find.”
Since milk cartons are small, the farm is not able to grow all types of crops. “We’re not growing onions here because we need a lot of space for it,” says Zach Pickens, Farm Manager. “Of the things that we do choose to grow, we try to cover one-hundred percent of the restaurant’s need.” The farm produces crops like green garlic, chives, and basil.
Riverpark Farm tries to improve both agriculturally and financially every year. “When we figure out what doesn’t work, we don’t grow it any more because it doesn’t make sense financially. We keep a very tight focus on the economics of it, so improving that every year is a goal.” This includes protecting plants from the cold during the off-season (December-February) through the miniature greenhouses (“cold frames”) pictured above.
The seasonal menu sparks inspiration in both farmers and diners. “Our menus are inspired by what’s growing in the farm, what’s available locally by the farms in the farmer’s market,” said Chrissa Yee. “One year we had 14 different varieties of lettuces, herbs, and flowers in that salad. So I think our diners get very excited,” she added.
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