Rooftop Farming in New York City

Posted by OmarTarakiNiodeFoundation
13 September 2017 | blogpost

Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm

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Anyone who enters the elevator at 37-18 Northern Blvd, Long Island City, New York will soon be stunned when the elevator door opens on the roof of the building. Visitors immediately faced a vast green farm with colorful flowers and New York’s skyline as a background.

Brooklyn Grange is the world's largest commercial rooftop farm business, operating a 4000 m2 farm in Long Island City and a 6000 m2 farm in Brooklyn Navy Yard. Each year the two farms produce nearly 23,000 kg of fresh vegetables. We visited the Long Island City location several times to enjoy the greeneries or buy some bvegetables, and it never ceased to amaze us

Product Varieties

Brooklyn Grange grows 40 varieties of tomatoes.. There are also numerous types of peppers with different levels of spiciness. Kale, chard, chicories, cherries, eggplants, pac choi, carrots, radishes, nuts, basil, mint leaves, and edible flowers also grow there.

 Peppers from Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm

Through food, education and public events, Brooklyn Grange builds green spaces and promotes sustainable living and local ecology. The management believes that social enterprise is a driving force for positive change, and business should foster their communities.

Rooftop Engineering

Information on the Brooklyn Grange website mentions that the rooftop farm is built with advanced engineering. A green roof system is first laid before special soil is placed. In Long Island City the green roof system consists of a layer of root barrier, which prevents the roots of the plant from penetrating the roof surface. In addition there is a thick layer of geotextile, and a drainage plate that can withstand excess water from heavy rain. There is also a thin layer of filter to prevent the drainage layer from mixing the soil.

Aside from guided tours, the farm at Long Island City hosts an open house every Saturday so visitors can browse around, buy vegetables, honey, sauce, or merchandises such as hats, cloth bags made of organic material, and a book about the place.

 Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm

Farm Business

Anastasia Cole Plakias co-founder of Brooklyn Grange wrote a book that we bought called The Farm on the Roof. It revolves around how the founders of Brooklyn Grange, with Ben Flanner as the originator, turned a dream into reality. What is important, according to Plakias, is to have partners with similar vision but different personalities. It is also cruicial to understand how to offer ideas to investors, and how to diversify the revenue stream consistent with branding.

Brooklyn Grange reached a breakeven point in its sales and production balance in the first year of operation, and begins to make profit in the third year. Various workshops are available for those who want to learn new things like natural dyes, beekeeping, mushroom cultivation, green-roofing, green wall, cooking, making jams, and more.

 Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm

The farms offered their products directly to the communities in New York’s weekly market, as well as to several local restaurants and retail stores. Also to the Community Supported Agriculture program network that allows city residents to have direct access to high quality fresh products grown locally.

Revenue Streams

Currently there are more than 40 restaurants in New York that source vegetables from Brooklyn Grange including ABC Kitchen, ABC Cocina and ABC V, three top restaurants owned by renowned Chef Jean Georges Vongerichten and the owner of ABC Carpet and Home,  Paulette Cole.

More revenue comes from speaker services for meetings, partnerships and education, and consulting for cities other than New York that build rooftop-farms, including Boston, Berlin, Barcelona, Brussels and Chicago.

 Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm

Brooklyn Grange is very popular as a place for culinary events and tickets are always sold out. This place is also famous as a location for film and photo shoots. They strictly guard copyrights. For example, the photos used for this blog post, although using the author's camera, require permission if published.

Quality of Life

Gardening on the city roof, according to Brooklyn Grange, has the potential to improve the quality of urban living, create jobs, increase access to healthy, fresh food, and provide environmental and agricultural education for those living in the city.

 Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm

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Text: Maira & Amanda Niode. Images: Maira Niode.