Locavore alert: ‘Farm City’ launches food events in Brooklyn

Launch of Farm City's "Chautauqua" at 61 Local in Brooklyn, NY

The food events take place at 61 Local, a community pub on Bergen Street.

Have you considered growing a vegetable garden in your windowsill, keeping a beehive on your roof or brewing  fermented tea in your kitchen? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, there’s a good chance you live in Brooklyn!

It’s no surprise that Brooklyn is home to Chautauqua, a new event series that aims to create community through food. Presented by Farm City, an educational organization that supports sustainable food practices, Chautauqua features art exhibits, history lectures, cooking classes and a book club. The series runs from February through mid-summer.

I attended the launch of Chautauqua on Friday at 61 Local, a new pub on Bergen Street. After a brief subway ride from downtown Manhattan, I sampled an array of craft beers and spoke with a passionate group of local foodies. Read on for an inside peek at the event series.

The venue

I was struck by the layout of 61 Local, which has only been open for two weeks. The space is huge by Manhattan standards, but the long wooden tables, warm lighting and brick walls give it a cozy feel. An unusually long bar makes it easy to strike up a conversation with other patrons.  “Our intention is to allow people to feel comfortable wandering around the space” and meeting people, explained owner Dave Liatti.

Launch of Farm City's "Chautauqua" at 61 Local in Brooklyn, NY

I enjoyed a Southampton Double White Ale at 61 Local.

The 61 Local staff is small– just 2 to 4 employees per shift– and does not include a chef or traditional waiters.  Customers are encouraged to pick up their food and drinks from the bar; Dave, the owner, takes drink orders and provides detailed explanations of the local brews.

61 Local does not cook any of its menu items but offers small plates: cured meats, fruit and cheeses from regional farms. Dave reveals without hesitation the names and neighborhoods of his food sources.

Cooking classes

One of Chautauqua’s most exciting offerings is the Community Cooking Club. Unlike a traditional cooking class, the club has no expert instructor. Participants work in groups of 2-4 to figure out the recipes for themselves. There are 8 recipes per class, so you will end up making– and eating– a full meal. Picture a potluck dinner, except you make the dishes at the event instead of bringing them from home.

Launch of Farm City's "Chautauqua" at 61 Local in Brooklyn, NY

I met foodies Nichelle Stephens and Nicole Taylor at the launch party.

Artist Tracy Candido founded and runs the Community Cooking Club. She noted that these experimental classes are less wasteful than traditional classes, where every student makes the same meal and more food is produced than can be eaten. All ingredients are purchased at the local greenmarket and most recipes are vegetarian.

The act of cooking with other community members is also important. “I’m interested in the way food can bring people together and act as a social lubricant,” Candido said at the event.

Passionate foodies

The Chautauqua launch attracted bloggers, artists and members of the community who are passionate about the local food movement.

“I grow as much [food] as I can. In 2009 we grew enough onions to last us the whole year,” said Cathy Hadley-Samia, a registered nurse who lives in Ohio. A former Brooklyn resident, Cathy prefers local and home-grown produce since “you know where it comes from and you know it doesn’t have all kinds of junk in it.”

While standing at the bar, I met a group of New Yorkers with solid foodie credentials: Nichelle Stephens, blogger at Cupcakes Take the Cake, and Nicole Taylor, a community outreach organizer at Brooklyn Food Coalition and the host of Hot Grease on Heritage Radio Network.

Launch of Farm City's "Chautauqua" at 61 Local in Brooklyn, NY

61 Local offers a variety of local beers and wines, as well as kombucha tea.

“I don’t drink beer, just cider, so having kombucha is a good thing,” Nicole noted as she sipped the hand brewed KBBK tea.  While not a huge kombucha fan, I have to admit the tea’s ginger taste was refreshing.

Nicole liked the space and was curious to see the rest of the venue. (Apparently there is a loft upstairs, out of view). “It’s the Jimmy 43 of Brooklyn. I love the crostinis and make the same ones at home.”

Event details

What: Chautauqua food-themed event series
Where: 61 Local Public House, 61 Bergen Street, Brooklyn, NY
Getting there: F and G subway to Bergen Street
When: February 22-July 20, 2011
Cost: Varies by event
Website: www.farmcity.us

More photos

For additional photos of the launch party, visit the Downtown Traveler flickr page.


Enjoy this article? Follow Downtown Traveler on Twitter and Facebook.

For information on locavore dining in other cities, check out this post from Santa Fe Travelers: “Eat like the locals in Santa Fe

About Leslie Koch

I'm a New Yorker with a passion for travel and art. I founded DowntownTraveler.com after returning from a year-long backpacking trip around the world. Find me on Twitter at @leslietravel.


  1. Maria A

    Such an interesting place with unique events to offer. Love the idea of eating local, it’s better for your health and the environment!

  2. What a wonderful confluence of food and lifestyle. I wish Seattle had even more community gardens but there is certainly a move in this direction. I have wanted to start a small window sill garden…maybe I will when I get back from Argentina. great post!

    • Thanks for your comment! I’ve tried to grow veggies in my apartment window, with no luck. I guess I don’t have a green thumb 🙂 I wish you more success!

  3. There is a National Wildlife Refuge in Central Illinois called Chatauqua National Wildlife Refuge. I wonder what the term actually means? I thought it might be derived from a Native American expression, but I found somewhere on the web where it said it is a French word that does not directly translate.

    • Hi Ted- That’s an interesting question. According to Farm City, which developed this event series, Chautauqua was the name of a historical farming movement. From their website:

      “The popularity of the Chautauqua movement arose from the social and geographic isolation of American farming communities yearning for education and culture. Our urban Chautauqua re-interprets this populist rural tradition by bringing it into the City — highlighting rising cultural consciousness about food.” (Quote from the founder of Farm City)

      “The first Chautauqua was organized in 1874 by Methodist minister John Heyl Vincent and NYC businessman Lewis Miller at a campsite on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in New York State. It seems fitting to hold a revival of Chautauqua in New York City.”

      Source: http://farmcity.us/chautauqua-events-61-local/

  4. Glad to see this- we have a post about locavores on our blog. Steve is involved with an on-going project and we’ll have more posts in the future. It’s so important to know who grows your food and how it’s done.

  5. Looks fun, the venue looks so cozy too. how do you find all these cool events?

    • Thanks for the comment Sarah! I’ve interviewed artists who focus on sustainability and local food for other stories. I’m on the press lists now for a lot of interesting events 🙂

  6. Cooking Classes! Something I really need ..LOL.I can eat but man, do I need to learn how to cook:P I wish I had been at the Chautauqua launch.. totally my scene eh? so Jealous you get all these great event where you are Leslie!!!

  7. This sounds like a very cool local food event. Thanks for the heads up!

    • Sure thing! Brooklyn is brimming with local food restaurants and events. It’s a Mecca for the locavore movement!

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