ITHACA, N.Y.—Tucked on a hill in Freeville, New York, sits Rocky Acres Community Farm, home of Norman, the resident friendly turkey, as well as the new Rocky Acres bodega farm stand.
Born and raised in South Bronx, New York, Rafael Aponte is passionate about community activism, farming and education, and works full-time farming as well as offering workshops and teaching K-12 students about sustainable farm practices and the short- and long-term impacts of COVID-19 on food access within local communities.
The idea for the bodega came from the desire to add points of access to the community in ways that are already familiar to them. “Instead of just making a regular farm stand, we wanted to make one that looks local and feels like a way that people are used to accessing food,” Aponte said.
Rocky Acres focuses on direct-to-consumer sales and doesn’t partake in the Ithaca Farmers Market, but Aponte said that he has observed needs in the community that could be better met with the addition of the bodega. During the pandemic, the farm had serviced its customers with deliveries as it didn’t have a standing market option yet.
Housed on the farm are four turkeys, the friendliest of which being the aforementioned Norman, who loves to greet customers and show off his impressive tail, as well as 14 goats and about 150 chickens, two beehives and two greenhouses.
With the additional space the bodega now offers, Aponte works with local farmers of color to stock things not produced on Rocky Acres’ land like breads, jams, other meats and pecans, which hail from Georgia, in addition to the vegetables, eggs and goat meat produced on the 10 acres of land. “We have the extra space, and we’re highlighting other producers in the region. We have a little bit of everything, and by the end, we hope to even do nursery plants,” he said.
In future seasons, the bodega will stock gooseberries, currents and black walnuts, which are all currently being grown on the farm, as well as honey. They’ve also had requests to carry butter and milk, and are in search of a local farm to partner with to supply dairy items. Aponte also said that part of the farm’s goal is to provide culturally significant things, like plantains or yams, even if they aren’t produced in the region.
The bodega is open to anyone and everyone during its 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday hours, and the farm is happy to work with its customers should they have trouble paying for everything they need.
The farm is located at 738 Sheldon Road in Freeville, New York.