By Arielle Hartman
High above the bustling streets of Western Queens, there is a one-acre urban farm, planting, growing and harvesting its way to a more sustainable lifestyle. Brooklyn Grange Farm, located in Long Island City, is part of a slew of urban farms rapidly taking over New York City's abandoned or unused lots, terraces and rooftops. At one-acre, in a city known for cramped spaces and crowded streets, Brooklyn Grange is a feat unto itself, turning the vacant office building roof they lease into a viable and successful urban farm - one of the biggest in New York City!
Launched in 2010, the brainchild of Ben Flanner, co-founder of Eagle Street Rooftop Farms in Brooklyn, Gwen Schantz, co-founder of the Bushwick Food Cooperative and CSA, Anastasia Plakias, New York City restaurant veteran-at-large, and Brandon Hoy and Chris Parachini, co-owners of Roberta's restaurant, Brooklyn Grange is a commercial farm that aims to make urban farming a feasible career opportunity as well as providing those farmers with a livable and dependable income.
Hoping to foster a closer relationship between producer and consumer, Brooklyn Grange has become somewhat of a community center, with farmers and volunteers always willing to give impromptu tours to visitors, providing a wealth of knowledge of the various produce they grow as well as new and interesting ways to cook them. The Grange even offers open volunteer days, Saturdays from 10am-4pm, to everyone from experienced gardeners to first time growers who relish the outdoors. Just show up, ready to feel the dirt between your fingers and they'll put you straight to work!
Through their sister company, City Growers, Brooklyn Grange offers educational tours and hands on activities for interested high schools and community groups, hoping to instill their passion for local and delicious food into this new, curious generation.
Additionally, Brooklyn Grange aims to combat the mechanization and wasted energy within the food industry by providing locally grown food to nearby restaurants and the eco-conscious community around them. Farm produce never usually travels beyond a five mile radius from the farm, cutting down fuel used for food transport, and Brooklyn Grange also collects and utilizes kitchen compost to provide essential nutrients for their soil, reducing the strain on the city's garbage disposal system.
The benefits of Brooklyn Grange do not just stop at the environmental; in fact, housing a rooftop farm is also very economically feasible for many buildings. The greenroof insulates the structure underneath, reducing heating and cooling bills. Additionally, the greenroof blocks dangerous UV rays, which are harmful to our health and harmful to the structure. These benefits can extend the building's functionality by up to 300%.
Furthermore, the farm collects almost 100% of the rainwater that falls for their plants, reducing their need for water while easing the stress on the city's already overworked storm systems. With these prominent cost-efficient and eco-friendly advantages, Brooklyn Grange hopes to be a beacon of successful urban farming for aspiring farmers and the buildings that house them in the future.
Rooftop farms, such as Brooklyn Grange, have the potential to drastically change our city for the better. Providing much-needed jobs, fresh produce and outdoor activities for our city's youth, Brooklyn Grange is a model for successful urban farming as well as living a sustainable and conscious life.
Visit Brooklyn Grange at 37-18 Northern Boulevard, at 38th Street, in Long Island City, Queens and get some of their delicious produce at their market on Wednesdays from 2pm-7pm or on Saturdays, at Brooklyn Flea's Smorgasburg!
Learn more about Brooklyn Grange here.