Staten Island's El Poblano Farm, and its epazote and popalo, aim to bring the Big Apple out of the Mexican food backwaters.
A land of pizza and bagels, New York City isn’t known for its Mexican food. The shortage of perfect burritos and tacos from the culinary landscape is one of the city’s few missing cultural advantages. Visitors (West Coasters, in particular) gleefully point it out. While the situation has improved in recent years—thanks to the city’s Mexican population boom and the trendy state of the taco—a farming project on Kickstarter highlights an overlooked reason for the dearth of great Mexican food in New York City: little access to the traditional herbs and vegetables that give Mexican cooking its soul.
El Poblano Farm on Staten Island has made it its mission the past three years to bring authentic Mexican flavors to New York City’s markets and dinner plates. While it grows and sells the basics like onions and beets, traditional herbs like pipicha and papalo, and epazote, described by Poblano as “an incredible symbiosis of crisp flavors like mint, cilantro, and garlic all wrapped in one delicious leaf,” are its mainstays.
Lead by Puebla native Gudelio Garcia, the farm currently sells to farmer's markets in Queens and Manhattan and directly to restaurants. The demand for authentic Mexican flavors is on the rise, and the farm's success so far has enabled it to staff up and expand operations across the Hudson to 10 acres in Andover, New Jersey, about 55 miles west of the city.
The problem is coming up with the cash flow to buy the expensive, rare seeds needed to sow so much new land. Of the 10 acres in Jersey, only five have been planted so far. So the farm has turned to Kickstarter to help expand its reach. With an ask of $5,000, Poblano hopes to fund its late summer planting and create a seed bank to save seeds for future years of farming. Incentives include custom-printed tote bags and aprons and traditioanl recipes.
The project's use of crowdfunding places it in a camp of innovative small farms seeking alternative models of financing, and in its efforts to bring better tasting Mexican food to New York, the farm is truly doing the lord's work.