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Perched high above the streets, overlooking the New York city skyline from Long Island City in Queens, is Brooklyn Grange – a one acre rooftop farm growing chemical-free vegetables.
While surrounding rooftops bear heat-absorbing open space, the unique rooftop project, run by head farmer Ben Flanner with co-founders Anastasia Cole, Gwen Schantz, Brandon Hoy and Chris Parachini, is setting the standard for using rooftops in imaginative ways.
“We’re paving the way and setting a model of doing really productive things on rooftops,” says Flanner. “Because there are so many open roofs across the city and it just doesn’t make sense to have so many that are black tar just basking in the sun all day and absorbing the heat.”
Having recently marked the end of a second year in operation, business is proving to be booming as they sell their hyper-local produce in farmers markets to the public and direct to local businesses. “It’s healthy food with prices as affordable as we can make it and its super fresh and super nutritious,” says Flanner.
While rooftop farming has proven a few challenges for the crew, mostly with more wind and shallower soil depth, Cole maintains that the huge advantage of urban farming is that, “we’re no more than three miles from our customers. So our vegetables use much less fuel to transport them. Another wonderful advantage is that we’re able to tap into the waste stream of the community for our compost program.”
Community participation is a big part of the farm’s operation, with volunteers and interns stopping by to lend a hand and learn a few farming skills, while other visitors are free to simply pop up and see where fresh produce is coming from. “We have also had thousands of school groups up on the farm since we opened to learn about urban agriculture and sustainable farming,” says Cole.
For more info, visit www.brooklyngrangefarm.com.