In the middle of Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan there are very few places to get truly locally-grown, environmentally-low-impact fare to fill up your food coffers and populate your pantry. The green markets at Union Square in Manhattan and Prospect Park in Brooklyn are probably your best bets, though this food is still grown a considerable distance outside the city. And though better than most of the produce you'll find anywhere else in the limits, it still must travel a distance from the farms in upstate New York, thus making it "local," but only to a point.
— run by the same folks of the locavore movement championing Roberta's
pizzeria and a transplanted Wisconsinite, Ben Flanner — hopes to remedy this problem by sticking a one-acre farm smack dab in the middle of Long Island City, Queens, as reported by the Times
earlier this week. They plan to sell fresh produce to local businesses and individuals and finally provide a chance to cultivate that intimate relationship between grower and consumer that is so desired (but so hard to come by) in the city. But where do you find an acre of free space in Queens? The answer is above us.
Brooklyn Grange has commandeered a 40,000 square-foot rooftop and is currently outfitting it with special soil and the other necessary accoutrements to start a fully functional working farm — six stories above the actual ground. Chief among these tools is a material that will act as the base for the farm, Rooflite
, which is a topsoil replacement engineered to work specifically on a roof.
What is most interesting about this endeavor, however, is the fact that the developers who had initially purchased the building had planned to plant the roof from the get-go, but not for the same reasons. Gardening on a roof is very good for the longevity of that roof and even the energy efficiency of the building. Brooklyn Grange will therefore be doubly beneficial, providing a longer lifespan for the roof, heating and cooling cost reduction, as well as providing true local produce nine months out of the year.
In any case, this is a hopeful step toward developer awareness about rooftop planting benefits, as well as a model that has the potential to catch on in a big way if the Grange is a success. Though this is not the first time someone has come up with the idea to grow food on a rooftop
, it is by far the most ambitious project to date, as well as the largest effort in regard to size and magnitude.
Currently Brooklyn Grange's Kickstarter page
is holding at $14K with the hopes of raising at least $6K more in the next 10 days to reach its $20K goal. The group hopes to expand rapidly and with a little luck, this farming technique will become de rigueur here in the city with even more cities taking the cue and adding rooftop farms of their own.