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Brooklyn Grange – World’s Largest Rooftop Farm

This post is brought to you by guest author, Emily Goldsher. Emily, who previously brought us Rooftop Farm at Sixpoint Craft Ales, is a communications strategist living in New York City. In her free time, she likes to learn about the ways smart people utilize urban spaces for farming.

Another gem out of New York is Brooklyn Grange, an urban farm located atop a massive 1919 warehouse at a humble intersection in Queens. Brooklyn Grange also happens to be the world’s largest rooftop farm, topping out at a massive 40,000 square feet of everything from tomatoes to fennel.

Unlike many local peers, Brooklyn Grange is a functioning commercial farm, supplying top-quality produce to weekly farmstands and nearby restaurants like Roberta’s, Marlow & Sons, Fatty ‘Cue and more. It’s no coincidence that all of their customers also happen to be lauded eateries, many of them with multi-star reviews in the New York Times. The Grange also runs a CSA, a rarity in a city where almost everyone belongs to a CSA, but those farms are almost always located in upstate New York. Produce from Brooklyn Grange doesn’t have far to travel.

A rooftop farm that big raises the question—how do they even get it all up there? Isn’t 40,000 square feet of organic produce a little heavy? Financed through a mixture of fundraising website Kickstarter.com and private equity loans, Brooklyn Grange represents a new generation of tech-savvy farmers more likely to own an iPhone than a tractor. Co-founders Ben Flanner, Anastasia Plakias, Gwen Schantz, Brandon Hoy and Chris Parachini (Roberta’s) brought in Bromley Caldari Architects to help conceptualize the space, while Conservation Technologies laid down the Grange’s green roof system. From Brooklyn Grange’s website:

“The system is as follows: a layer of root-barrier, which prevents our plants’ roots from penetrating the surface of the roof; a thick layer of felt; drainage mats with small cups to hold excess water from heavy rainstorms (the soil and plants wick this stored water up in dry conditions to keep our water use down), and finally, a thin layer of felt to prevent the drainage mats from filling up with soil…We bought our soil from Skyland in Pennsylvania, a green roof supplier. The blend is called Rooflite and is composed of compost for organic components, and lightweight, porous stones. The stones make the material lighter in weight and also slowly break down to add trace minerals needed by the vegetables. Our beds are about 7.5” deep with 1” deep walkways.”

Brooklyn Grange recently added a hive of bees to their menagerie of vegetables and herbs, making for a more interesting (if it is even possible) rooftop array. Urban beekeeping, banned in New York until 2010, is a fantastic companion to rooftop farming. Check out Brooklyn Grange buddies BoroughBees here.

Inhabitat NYC has an arresting photo gallery of Brooklyn Grange. It is wild to see such a large plot of green in what is usually such a grey skyline, but the reality is that urban farming is a viable option and if 1.2 million pounds of soil on a roof doesn’t prove it, nothing will.

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