As we head into March, New York’s biggest rooftop farm - the Brooklyn Grange - gears up for a fresh load of crops with the knowledge of what works and needs improvement for year two.
The Grange popped up last May on a 40,000 square-foot rooftop in Queens. It produced 15,000 pounds of organic fruits and veggies including tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, salad greens, radishes, carrots and 36 more varieties. While the garden isn’t certified organic, the Grange doesn’t use any synthetic fertilizers, insecticides or herbicides. The garden, which is covered with 1.2 million pounds of soil and over 20,000 linear feet of green roofing material, operates nine months out of the year. Over the winter, they use cover crops like rye, buckwheat, vetch and clover.
They reached out to local restaurants like Fatty Cue, Vesta, and Roberta’s as well as locavores who signed up for their CSA (only $20 per week) and bypassers who bought from the greenmarket on the ground floor of the building. Their goal - to improve access to very good food, to connect city people more closely to farms and food production, and to make urban farming a viable enterprise and livelihood - had been a success but not without its challenges.
This year, owners Ben Flanner, Brandon Hoy and Chris Parachini are ready for the challenges that faced them last year like wind, bugs and heavy feeders. Harlequin bugs posed a threat to the Grange’s crops so natural predators will be introduced as well as the owners’ own two fingers for squashing. They will also be getting creative with bamboo sticks and teepees to avoid wind damage to growing crops and leave out “heavy feeders” like cabbage that didn’t do so well last year.
Flanner’s enthusiasm for rooftop farming doesn’t stop with just this. He is dedicated to getting more rooftops in NYC on board and invites the community to visit, volunteer and participate in the process. If you’re interested in getting involved in the farm this spring or summer, sign up for the mailing list and they’ll get in contact with you as soon as the season gets rolling.
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Image by Brooklyn Grange