Smiling Hogshead Ranch is an all-volunteer urban farm located on a long-abandoned rail spur in Long Island City, Queens, New York.
It started as a “guerilla garden”, meaning that the gardeners did not have permission from the property owner to use or occupy the land. But when the property’s owner, the Long Island Rail Road, took notice, the gardeners worked with the railroad to secure a lease to allow them to continue using the property as an urban farm. The name “Smiling Hogshead” was inspired by the pig skeleton the gardeners discovered when they were first clearing the site.
The land where Smiling Hogshead Ranch is located used to be a lead track to a once-large freight rail yard known as the Degnon Terminal. Starting around 1919, Degnon Terminal brought freight cars into the Long Island City industrial business district, serving the various industries located there. The Long Island Rail Road Company acquired the Degnon Terminal properties in 1928, but shortly thereafter the terminal fell into disuse. The LIRR finally deactivated the switch connecting the terminal to the rest of the rail network in 1989.
The rail bed is still largely intact, and has been thoughtfully incorporated into the landscape at Smiling Hogshead Ranch.