Not just a tree, but a whole farm, grows in Brooklyn. Former E-Trade marketing manager Ben Flanner and New York Botanical Garden educational director Annie Novak started planting a whole salad full of veggie crops atop a former bagel factory in April.
Since the duo talked about the rooftop farm at last month's Brooklyn Food Conference, tattooed volunteers have flocked to the decidedly un-bucolic Greenpoint neighborhood. There, they seed, shovel, and sow, and are rewarded with quinoa for lunch and a sense of legitimacy. Some volunteers arrive lovingly clutching bags of compost, which they gratefully donate to the farm. “We had more, but our landlord made us throw it away!” griped one, holding a slightly skimpy sack.
The Greenpoint farm was landscaped by Chris and Lisa Goode of Goode Green. The two founded their own sustainable rooftop development company after success with their own Little Italy farm, complete with chickens and fruit trees. Flanner contacted the couple after reading about them in New York last year, making up for his lack of farming background with sheer enthusiasm. After signing up the Greenpoint building owner and experienced gardener Novak, the rest was history.
In addition to the vegetables, Eagle Street Rooftop Farm—it's on the corner of West End and Eagle Street—also includes an apiary, which helps pollinate and spread the crops. They’re planning on selling their vegetables to several local restaurants, including Marlow & Sons and Diner. Putting the "green" back in “Greenpoint," Ben will make all deliveries on his bike.
Standing knee-deep in pea plants and overlooking the Manhattan skyline, the whole project seems a bit utopian. But for some New Yorkers, a vegetable-filled rooftop is far more conceivable and practical than moving to the country. Novak agrees. “When these farmers go in and lecture these inner city kids about dairy farming in upstate New York, it’s in one ear and out the other. But I can tell them, I have two farms in the city,” and they can take the subway and come help on the weekends.
For more information on volunteering at Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Greenpoint, email firstname.lastname@example.org.