Meet your local farmers: ST Greenmarket’s Liberty Farms

Joseph Koovalloor, pictured with another farmer, of Liberty Farms in Stuyvesant Town Photo by Maya Rader)

Joseph Koovalloor, pictured with another farmer, of Liberty Farms in Stuyvesant Town Photo by Maya Rader)

By Maya Rader

It may seem crazy that a chef at a Japanese restaurant in New York City became a farmer in upstate New York. However, this is exactly what happened to Joseph Koovalloor, who is now a farmer’s apprentice at Liberty Farms.

When Koovalloor was working as a chef, he became interested in how the food he worked with traveled from farm to table. He said that he “wasn’t really too sold on the idea” of the long and unknown path his ingredients took before they reached him. He moved to Japan to visit friends he made at the Japanese restaurant, and began volunteering at a Japanese farm. After he experienced farming, he was sold.

He then found his way to Liberty Farms, located in Ghent, NY, two and a half hours north of Manhattan, and became a farmer’s apprentice there last February.

Liberty Farms sells chicken and a wide variety of vegetables on Sundays at the Stuyvesant Town Greenmarket. The farm began selling at the greenmarket at the end of last season and continues to sell at the market this year.

Liberty Farms is both organic and biodynamic. Biodynamic farmers don’t use pesticides and try to reuse as many materials as they can; they see the farm as one ecosystem, where each crop, animal, soil or other material supports the others. Biodynamics also centers around soil fertility and nutrition, which is the foundation of the farm’s self-sustainability.

“It’s a little more focused on healing the Earth as well as the people on it,” Koovalloor explained.

At Liberty Farms, Koovalloor watches seeds turn into crops, eggs turn into chickens and food go from farm to table. “It’s the full circle of life. The Lion King theme is very much there,” said Koovalloor.

An average day at Liberty Farms is a long one.

“There’s always something to do,” he said with a laugh. An ordinary day for Koovalloor starts at 7 a.m. and goes to 5:30 to 6 p.m. On Sundays, when Liberty Farms travels to the greenmarket, Koovalloor wakes up at 3:30 a.m.

“Waking up is definitely a struggle,” Koovalloor confessed.

However, according to Koovalloor, it’s worth it.

“It’s quite nice to have a conversation with the people who are actually eating the food.”

At Liberty Farms, Koovalloor has had his fair share of interaction with the animals. He remarked that he was once head-butted by a horse. He recounts that one minute the horse was smelling him in a friendly way, and then the next, the horse headbutted him.

“The horse was laughing, sticking his tongue out at me, and having a riot.”

It is no surprise that Koovalloor’s favorite aspect of being a farmer is the food. As a farmer who still loves to cook from his restaurant days, Koovalloor said he gets “to cook with amazing, high-quality ingredients, and it’s quite awesome because I know who grew it.”

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10 thoughts on “Meet your local farmers: ST Greenmarket’s Liberty Farms

  1. Another illegal commercial venture that should result in rent rebates for all tenants except that the local pols and the TA were bought off. When will the TA start being a TA?

    • While I agree that this is an illegal commercial venture, it does not necessarily mean that anybody was bought off. It’s possible, when things don’t go the way you might want, that there just wasn’t enough fight in the dog rather than that there was a cash grab or any under the table deals. You risk sounding like one of those tinfoil hat people who populate a certain local comments boards.

  2. Congratulations to Joseph. We are proud of you. Farmers are the backbone of all nations. Without farmers there will be hunger and poverty. No nation can stand without farmers. It is also true that farmers are not getting enough respect in the U.S. and many of other industrialized nations. There will come one day that all nations will realize the importance of Organic Farming. Wish you and your team all the blessings.

  3. Beautifully written Maya, thank you!
    *Liberty Farms sells chicken and a wide variety of vegetables on Sundays at the Stuyvesant Town Greenmarket… is both organic and biodynamic. Biodynamic farmers don’t use pesticides and try to reuse as many materials as they can; they see the farm as one ecosystem, where each crop, animal, soil or other material supports the others.
    *At Liberty Farms, [Joseph] Koovalloor watches seeds turn into crops, eggs turn into chickens and food go from farm to table. “It’s the full circle of life. The Lion King theme is very much there,” said Koovalloor.

    • Actually, I’m a huge supporter of the farmers and patronize all of the local Farmers Markets. I am not a supporter of Slash nor any of the opinions I have seen him put forth, ever, in the pages of this blog. BTW, if you re-read my post you may want to rethink calling me a moron or an enemy– I am nothing of the kind; I said nothing whatever disparaging against farmers or farms or markets.

      As for its being an illegal venture… it is. The fact is there is zoning in place which does not permit commercial enterprises in areas zoned exclusively as residential is illegal. There are several for-profit entities in StuyTown which are violations of this zoning. While I choose not to patronize any of the other for-profit businesses which fly in the face of this illegality, I don’t hold the farmers responsible so choose to ignore the market’s illegality, which is my personal choice. Were the market to be moved to a loop road or the inner roadways surrounding StuyTown it would be within the confines of the law and not subject to these arguments (and the stubborn hotheads who constantly champion them). Personally, THAT is a market location I would prefer to shop at (not the Oval where it is illegal and contentious, like it or not). Meantime, I will continue to shop there and support the farmers as I have for the past 30+ years since the Greenmarket was first born.

    • So, slash is a moron because he correctly identified the illegal commercial venture that you profit from huh? You must be a democrat city council member, since you are so corrupt.

    • No, I don’t like corrupt Democrats. I am trying to find one that isn’t corrupt so I can like him/her/?. Unfortunately, that excludes the city council, the mayor, the governor, the potential president, the lame duck president, etc. However, you are finally correct about something, nothing new to see here.

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