The Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm Project

May 25, 2010 at 2:53 pm

What an awesome concept the Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm project is!  I first heard about this late last year but then about a week ago colleagues Bill Foley and Wendy Wark alerted me again, and so now I finally took action this afternoon by donating $50 to the cause.  Not a lot of money, but enough to show Greenroofs.com‘s support for an extremely worthwhile undertaking.

As we all know in this green industry of ours, underutilized rooftop space is one of the greatest real estate potentials for greenroof implementation.  In this age of trying to come together as a community, organic farming, and healthy food plus security issues, what better way to help mitigate the developmental woes of a building’s footprint that planting crops at rooftop level?  And (hopefully) make a profit?

That’s exactly what Brooklyn Grange is doing for their own community – they’re in the process of starting a rooftop farm with a team of five partners and a whole bunch of friends, and the organizer, Ben Flanner says it’s “A big project that requires a lot of hard work to say the least, and one that sets an example for using under-utilized rooftop space across this dense city to do something productive.  There are many benefits to the city and community from such an operation.”  Most certainly, and we can all help by donating even just $1 – by this Friday, May 28, 2010 – but $10 gets a bee named after you!  Actually, for all donations of $10 or more, they will list you as a donor on their website and name one of their honeybees after you.

They’ve setup a campaign on an interesting new website called kickstarter, which is designed to help raise funds for enterprising people to start new projects – such as this one.  Kickstarter has a unique platform where you set your goal at the onset of the campaign, and then you need to hit that goal from online pledges to receive funding, otherwise all of your pledges are simply returned to the pledgers.  People can click on your project and pledge any amount during the course of the campaign.

So what is the project really all about?  Their page on kickstarter says:

“Brooklyn Grange will be a 1 acre rooftop farm situated in New York City. Such a commercially-viable rooftop farm has yet to be realized in this country. We will use simple greenroof infrastructure to install over 1 million pounds of soil on the roof of an industrial building on which we will grow vegetables nine months of the year. Being in the country’s largest city, the farm will create a new system of providing local communities with access to fresh, seasonal produce. We plan to expand quickly in the first few years, covering multiple acres of New York City’s unused rooftops with vegetables. The business has many environmental and community benefits, and allows our city dwelling customers to know their farmer, learn where their food comes from, and become involved.”

Ironically, as it turns out, Brooklyn Grange’s first project isn’t in Brooklyn but on a 40,000 square foot, 6-story industrial rooftop in Queens!  And the group is very happy to have the good fortune of this company’s backing, too, and they’ll be selling their produce in both boroughs as well, including tomatoes, eggplants, chilies and various leafy greens.  The farm will be run by Ben Flanner, who started and ran a proof of concept rooftop farm in the summer of 2009.  The beyond-organic produce will be sold directly to the community at an onsite stand, affording shoppers a direct relationship with the farm and farmers.  Additional produce will be sold to a small group of market-driven local restaurants.  He explains the business philosophy:

“We are a for-profit business. We believe in adding fiscal sustainability to the sustainability rubric so that urban rooftop farms can expand across the city, the Northeast and even the world! Any profits we make will go towards paying our farmer a living wage and whatever remains will be reinvested in the business so we can keep growing.” ~ Ben Flanner

In what stage is the project now?  In a newsletter today, May 25, 2010, Ben shares that “At this moment, we’ve installed about two-thirds of the rooftop soil, and we have about 110 sacks (~300,000 lbs) to lift yet with the crane, continuing tomorrow morning early.”

Brooklyn Grange needed to hit their goal of $20,000 by Friday, May 28, to get some important funds for the farm through kickstarter, and I’m pleased to report they have!  As of right now, supporters and fans have pledged $20,740.50, but please consider contributing more to their entreprenuerial greening efforts.  To pledge now, visit here, and they’d love it if you would also help spread the word!  Read “High Above Queens, the Dirt Is Deep, and Good” by Diane Cardwell in the New York Times of May 13, 2010, see their profile on kickstarter, and the video below.

For more info, visit Brooklyn Grange’s own website or contact Ben at: ben.flanner@gmail.com or 608.215.0218.

Happy veggie rooftop greening! ~ Linda V.