How many farms have a sweeping view of Manhattan’s glittering skyline? Atop an industrial building, commercial farm Brooklyn Grange has a carefully constructed green roof system and grows its vegetables according to organic principles. As the U.S. Department of Agriculture already estimates that 15 percent of the world’s food is grown in urban environments, that number is expected to grow as the trend of rooftop farming makes its way across our nation’s buildings.
Actually in the borough of Queens (the owners had to find a new site after establishing their name based on the originally intended Brooklyn locale), the one-acre farm offers CSA shares, farmer’s market locations and sells its produce to area restaurants. Head farmer and co-founder Ben Flanner became interested in farming several years ago.
“I was attracted to growing food, as well as all of the challenges, problems, and creative solutions involved in small-scale organic farming.” say Flanner.
The farm’s first growing season, 2010, in which six tons of produce were generated, got Flanner and his team off to a good start.
“The public has been very supportive,” he says. “People have come to visit the farm from all over the city, as well as the world. Neighbors have come to help and get their hands dirty, and support us at our farm stands. People are excited to see a new idea that is positive for the city, the environment, and the general community.”
A new idea is sure to have a few snags. “A few crops have struggled,” Flanner notes, “and we’ve had a few major insect attacks, believe it or not.” Wind is also a significant factor for a rooftop farm. “We have to use creative solutions to solve these problems, attempting to create a well-rounded eco-system as quickly as possible.” In spite of the challenges, Flanner says, “Interest seems to be growing at a rapid speed. There are other similar rooftop farming business cases floating around the country, and several groups are attempting to put together projects.”
—By Rani Long