Let It Grow

Kerber’s Farm School provides fertile ground for budding agricultural stewards.
Kids get first-hand farm experience. Photo courtesy of Kerber’s Farm

By Julia Szabo

The place that was a favorite destination of your childhood—has it closed, making memories of it sweeter than ever? It’s a scenario that has befallen too many businesses, particularly in the wake of COVID-19. Growing up in Huntington, New York, Nick Voulgaris III cherished fond memories of “the coolest little retail farm, with fresh eggs and delicious homemade pies and jams…a really charming Norman Rockwell experience.”

Decades later, when Kerber’s Poultry Farm—first established in 1941—had been abandoned and blighted, the prospect of it being lost forever was unacceptable to Voulgaris. When, in 2013, he learned of plans for the place to be demolished and turned into condominiums, he purchased the property and vowed to revive the Kerber’s Farm he and so many others remembered. Like his fellow Pisceans, Voulgaris is “passionate about restoration and historic preservation.” But rather than simply recreating a bygone vintage vibe, he brought everything up to date: “I recognized the responsibility I have to preserve and care for the great legacy of this local icon.” That noble mission is evident on every lavishly illustrated page of Voulgaris’ newest book, The Kerber’s Farm Cookbook: A Year’s Worth of Seasonal Country Cooking (Rizzoli).

Young plantings at Kerber’s Farm.

Today, Kerber’s does more than delight the bright-eyed child in its satisfied clientele (including Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart) with signature s’mores pies and epic egg sandwiches on flaky cheddar biscuits; it’s helping to empower young people, inspiring and training the next generation of responsible agricultural stewards. Voulgaris reports that more than 200 blossoming farmers and scientists have completed courses at Kerber’s Farm School, which opened this past May and aims to teach students of all ages the importance of sustainability, organic farming and healthy eating habits. The mission? Solving what Voulgaris calls “the McDonald’s dilemma”: kids subsisting on empty-calorie fast foods because they’re cheaper to buy than fresh, whole foods. “A cheeseburger is 99 cents,” he points out, “while a head of broccoli is $4.”

Teaching kids how to grow their own veggies in a classroom that doubles as a cooking studio (and resembles a sleek Food Network set), this cool school helps students understand the importance of buying local, and the carbon footprint of our food choices. With several gardens, a thriving herd of livestock and more than a dozen beehives, the faculty—comprising science, farming and cooking experts—combines hands-on farming experience with a fun culinary curriculum. The school is open to people of all ages: Mommy & Me, pre-K to 6th grade, middle and high school; there’s even continuing education for adults. Fees for classes range from $35 to $50.

“We want to show how easy it is to grow your own healthy food, even if you live in an urban area,” Voulgaris concludes, “so we’re also teaching container and rooftop garden classes. It’s important for everyone to understand how our food choices impact the environment we all share.” kerbersfarm.com