Queens County Farm Museum director looks back at accomplishments since taking over in 2018

Director of the Queens County Farm Museum Jennifer Walden Weprin
Photo by the Queens County Farm Museum

Since taking office as the director of the Queens County Farm Museum in October of 2018, Jennifer Walden Weprin has managed to oversee its growth economically and as a pillar for the community. Under her leadership as its director, the institution managed to adapt and thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic and is now one of the most-visited cultural institutions in Queens.

Photo courtesy of Queens County Farm Museum

“This place brings joy to New Yorkers,” Walden Weprin said. “It’s been continuously farmed since 1697. New York City grew around this historic site for over three centuries. Folks come to us for different reasons. They come to us because they like a good festival, or they want to learn more about 18th-century cooking or the residents that lived in the farmhouse on this site. They come to us for class trip programs all year-round. The biggest joy I get is being able to connect all those visitors to our public work and this public site and teach them things they didn’t even know they wanted to learn about yet.”

According to Walden Weprin, she is most proud of the team she has built at the Queens County Farm Museum. She feels they do a great job in representing the borough’s diversity as they perform public work for the institution.

Walden Weprin said that the public programs have experienced a 58% increase since the 2019 fiscal year. Even the pandemic couldn’t prevent such a large growth in that area. In fact, she noted that there was a 41% increase in public programming in the 2021 fiscal year. This included programming on-site, as well as virtual programming.

“As a 47-acre historic site, we have a lot of room to optimize serving the public in many different ways,” Walden Weprin said. “[During the pandemic,] the team and I really took a strong look at who we are and what we do. First there was some cost-cutting across the board, like renegotiating our copier lease and things like that. There was a lot of green COVID relief funding out there and PPP loans, which were very helpful to our organization. We closed in the middle of March [2020] and reopened on Aug. 2. We had a line at the gate when everyone knew we were opening. We really had to reimagine how we were providing our programming following all of the regulations and requirements.”

When Queens County Farm Museum reopened in the summer of 2020, Walden Weprin said she required that each visitor was given 36 square feet to themselves. In order to determine capacity based on this requirement, Walden Weprin and her team took a look at a map of the acres of land they were activating and divided it by 36 square feet. A lot of picnic tables, benches and chairs were picked up at this time as a means of keeping up with seating.

“So many people were coming here just to get some fresh air and be outdoors in open space,” Walden Weprin said. “The team was incredible. As hard as it was, we learned so much from the experience and that informed our work post-COVID as well.”

Thanks in large part to Queens County Farm Museum’s work in educating kids about eating healthy and providing them with freshly-picked vegetables, Northwell Health has become the farm’s first health and wellness partner. For more than five years, Northwell Health has invested in the institution, committed to bringing the best of what they do to the best of what the farm museum does in helping the public eat healthier, recognize where their food comes from and care about wellness.

“We’re always looking for ways to continue to connect [with New York City residents],” Walden Weprin said. “We are free admission 354 days per year and that’s really something our organization is quite proud of. We are always looking for new ways to invest and connect with our visitors on a daily basis. We give back in many ways. We created farm camp with Commonpoint Queens. That was also a favorite project of mine.”

Walden Weprin recalled how the Queens County Farm Museum came up with the idea for the farm camp a couple of weeks before the camp season was scheduled to begin in the summer of 2020. At the time, Commonpoint Queens wasn’t able to bus their campers to various campgrounds outside New York City. Within the span of two weeks, the two organizations put together a farm camp for these kids, with parents dropping them off.

“My birthday happened to be in early July and I remember the kids walking up to me with a card,” Walden Weprin said. “They said ‘Happy birthday Miss Jennifer! You saved our summer!’ It really reminded me and our team of how important our public service is.”

Photo courtesy of the Queens County Farm Museum

Walden Weprin said she already has some ideas of what she would like to oversee in the near future as director of Queens County Farm Museum. One idea would be investing more in urban agriculture and urban farming. She said this would help in feeding hungry New Yorkers. Another thing she would like to oversee as director is for funding to be baselined to the organization through the New York City budget. She argued that this would be incredibly helpful to the organization as it invests more in its strong commitment to public service.

Prior to becoming the Queens County Farm Museum’s director, Walden Weprin had been working for two years under then-Queens Borough President Melinda Katz as the director of cultural affairs and tourism. She credits former state Senator Frank Padavan for reaching out to her to see if she would be interested in becoming the new director of the Farm Museum.

Before becoming the director of cultural affairs and tourism, Walden Weprin worked as the director of marketing and external affairs at the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona from 2011 to 2016.