April 14, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
A non-profit organization and a group that oversees the 31st Avenue Open Street are coming together to host a weekly farm stand in Astoria—starting Saturday.
The farm stand, which will be open every Saturday through late October, will be located on the 31st Avenue Open Street–between 33rd and 34th Streets.
The stand will offer residents items such as fresh fruit and vegetables, eggs, bread and other grocery staples—sourced from local suppliers. It will run from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
The Connected Chef, a Long Island City-based non-profit that aims to tackle food insecurity, is operating the farm stand in partnership with the 31st Avenue Open Street Collective, a group that helps to maintain the open street.
The Connected Chef delivers free food and groceries to around 550 families in need throughout Queens every week from its 49-09 5th St. distribution center. The group focuses heavily on supporting struggling immigrants who have been put out of work due to the pandemic and are unable to receive government assistance.
The farm stand on 31st Avenue will replicate the one The Connected Chef runs at its 5th Street location in Long Island City on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, according to Omar Bravo-Pavia, the co-founder of the nonprofit. Bravo-Pavia established The Connected Chef with his wife Kim Calichio in 2016.
Bravo-Pavia, an Astoria resident who is originally from Mexico, said his group wants to bring high-quality, low-cost food to Astoria—adding that there is a big demand for fresh produce in the neighborhood.
“We are very excited and getting everything organized to be ready for Saturday,” Bravo-Pavia said.
The Connected Chef is working with farmers throughout the state as well as in New Jersey and Pennsylvania in order to stock up the farm stand with fruit and vegetables.
Grains at the farm stand will be supplied by Hellgate Farm, an Astoria-based network of residential gardens. Residents will also be able to purchase bread from Bench Flour Bakers, a bakery in Astoria. Items such as canned tomatoes, hot sauces, honey and coffee will be on offer sourced from local grocery stores.
The Connected Chef will also offer boxes filled with fresh produce for any price up to $45 using a “sliding scale” model. The aim of the price model is to make food accessible to all residents, Bravo-Pavia said.
“Our goal is to build a food system where folks can opt-in regardless of their level of income,” Bravo-Pavia said. “Residents are only asked to pay what they can afford.”
The profits generated by the farm stand will be used by The Connected Chef to continue its free food deliveries to people in need throughout the borough, according to Bravo-Pavia. He said that the non-profit supplies most of its food to residents in Corona, Flushing and Ozone Park.
Bravo-Pavia said the group plays an important role in supporting small farmers by connecting them to customers in urban areas. He said that farmers are unable to participate in city markets due to the high costs involved.
“They don’t have the capacity to invest in coming to the city and hosting a stand – as well as all the logistics that go along with it,” Bravo-Pavia said. “So this way it’s kind of a win-win as it still supports the farmer.”