Home on the Grange: Brooklyn’s biggest rooftop farm

 

You won’t easily find a 40,000 square foot farm in your neighborhood, especially if you live in a big city. However, the Brooklyn Grange sets a great example of how a city like New York can integrate sustainable food production into its existing infrastructure by maximizing the use of rooftop space. Since opening in 2010, their rooftop farm has already sold over 40,000 pounds of fresh produce to local New Yorkers and is poised to sell over 20,000 pounds in 2012 alone.

The Brooklyn Grange grows and sell a wide range of fruits and vegetables, as well as honey and eggs (check out their calendar to learn where and when goods are sold). When I met with Gwen Schantz (one of the five creators of the farm), she noted that the bees are excellent pollinators, which helps the Grange produce more fruits like cucumbers, peppers or tomatoes. This is just one example of the ways that urban farming offers models of how to develop integrated and sustainable food systems.

About 1.2 million pounds of soil was used to “build” this rooftop farm. Surprisingly, that took only about 10 days (with the help of 20-25 people, mostly friends or family members). They transported  soil to the roof of the building using “super sacks.” Harder than actually building the roof was raising the funds to do so. According to Gwen, they had to raise about $200,000 for the soil and other material expenses. Like so many community projects, they were helped by small loans from friends and family and through community support at small fundraising events. On top of everything else, Gwen mentioned that “It was challenging to find a landlord willing to work with us.” Many balked at the idea of a rooftop garden. Future landlords might be pleased to learn that in spite of the heavy load, rooftop gardens can actually increase a roof’s lifespan by protecting the its waterproof layer from the effects of sun and storms.

As rooftop farms and gardens grow in popularity all over the city, we are eager to see what the impact will be for the average New Yorker.

For more info, visit their official website: http://www.brooklyngrangefarm.com/ 

Featured image by: Cyrus Dowlatshahi