Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum
Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum
A principal purpose of the Wyckoff Farmhouse Community Demonstration Garden is to reconnect Brooklyn with its proud history as some of the most fertile and productive farmland in the United States. Although it is difficult to imagine in present-day, urban Brooklyn, Kings County was primarily farmland through most of its history. Pieter Claesen Wyckoff and his descendents farmed their property, mostly southeast of the House, from 1652 until 1901. For much of its early history, the Dutch farmers of the area produced mostly grain crops for sale: wheat, corn, oats, rye, and hay. For their personal use, they also would have grown a wide variety of vegetables in their kitchen garden. The kitchen garden was also the home of many household herbs used for cooking and medicine. Kings County farmers frequently had orchards with multiple species of fruit trees.
The 19th century saw a great change in the character and production of Kings County farms. As New York City and Brooklyn rapidly expanded, the outlying farmland became progressively more oriented towards providing for the needs of the urban market. By the later half of the century, most of the land in Kings County had been converted to market farm production. Vegetables and fruit were grown at high profit to supply demand in the adjacent cities, while less perishable grain crops were increasingly supplied by farms of the Midwest. Records show that Brooklyn farms produced a wide variety of vegetables, including: cabbage, potatoes, sweet corn, carrots, cucumbers, beans, peas, onions, tomatoes, celery, beets, rhubarb, squash, asparagus, cauliflower, and turnips. They also grew fruit for market, including apples, cherries, raspberries, and pears.
Despite the dramatic expansion of urban Brooklyn, the Flatlands survived as a farm community into the 20th century. The Wyckoffs on Canarsie Lane were among the first families in the area to sell their land to developers, perhaps motivated by the incursion of the Long Island Rail Road across their lands in 1897. By 1940, urban Brooklyn had essentially enveloped all of Kings County and its agrarian past was no more than a memory.
Pictures and information were provided by Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum
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