Brooklyn Grange Adds New Dimension to Urban Agriculture

bg_mapIn New York City, some farmers are making strides towards an embedded system of urban agriculture. Home to well over 8 million people, New York City is one of the few places one would think to get a locally grown, heirloom tomato, but Brooklyn Grange is taking the opportunity where it comes.

Brooklyn Grange is taking a new look at space and using the rooftops of New York city to grow food for people and restaurants with the aim to provide better access to good food and to connect the people to food production and land, even if it's on top of a building.

The group is made up of residents with very diverse backgrounds. Taken directly from their website:

Ben Flanner

Head Farmer Ben Flanner is a trained engineer with a background in finance. In 2009 Ben founded Eagle Street Rooftop Farms, the first rooftop soil farm in New York. Ben’s tedious record keeping, attention to detail, and relationships in the community are a crucial asset to the farm.

Gwen Schantz

An urban farmer and sustainable food advocate, Gwen Schantz is a co-founder of the Bushwick Food Cooperative & CSA, and works as Farm Manager at Roberta’s in Brooklyn.

Chris Parachini

A visionary entrepreneur, Chris is Co-owner and CEO of Roberta’s – an establishment described by the New York Times as “more than a restaurant,” where “the grass-fed set has turned it into something of a clubhouse.”

Brandon Hoy

Co-owner and operator of Roberta’s, Brandon Hoy founded Roberta’s Farm in 2009, growing fresh produce just steps away from the restaurant’s kitchen. Brandon also keeps honey bees for the restaurant and farm.

Anastasia Plakias

A veteran of the New York City restaurant industry, Anastasia most recently served as communications director for Batali-Bastianich Hospitality Group’s co-president, Joe Bastianich.

In large cities, like New York, it is important to bring fresh, organic food into the marketplace for both the individual consumer and the commercial consumer. Using the rooftops is a rather ingenious idea for a couple of reasons:

First, they're above the smog line. There are a thousands of cars and trucks lurking, looming and idling in the streets of New York City; many buildings are above that hanging cloud of  streetside exhaust.  That means fresh air for homegrown vegetables.

Second: total, unblocked sunshine. Gardening or farming in a city like New York can be daunting because there are so many buildings to shade plants that require full sun.

Third: rooftop gardening productively uses space that is otherwise unused. Ben Flanner explains through a Reuter's Video,  "We're using an open space that would normally just be blasted by the sun, and we're growing something and we're also doing a very small part to absorb water; we use storm water runoff that enters the sewage system and also to cool off the building."

Brooklyn Grange is a breath of fresh air in the new economy and in the city, bringing sustainable agriculture and urban agriculture to a new level, literally.