This is incredibly cool…
Imagine an acre urban farm with over 1.2 million pounds of topsoil on top of a building. Brooklyn Grange imagined it and created it – a commercial urban farm that provides urban resilience and a reliable source of organic produce in the middle of Queens.
The farm was financed through private equity, loans, grassroots fundraising and the website Kickstarter.com. And in the ultimate “piss off” to the USDA, the farm has no intention of applying for the Department’s organic certification.
According to Brooklyn Grange, Conservation Technologies laid down a green roof system, which prevents plant roots from penetrating the surface of the roof and conserves water through an ingenuous use of drainage mats and small storage cups to hold excess water, which can then be accessed during dry conditions.
So, what are they growing? Hundreds of thousands of plants, including 40 varieties of tomatoes, salad greens, carrots, fennel, beets, radishes, beans and many other crops. Vegetables are grown organically with no synthetic fertilizers, insecticide or herbicides during a 9-month growing season. During the winter, Brooklyn Grange plants cover crops like rye, buckwheat and clover.
Best of all, the produce is sold directly to the community from several weekly farm stands and to several of New York’s finest restaurants.
Yes, for now big cities must still rely on rural farmers for the bulk of their food, but urban farms inside city limits that take advantage of unused roof space are a huge opportunity to improve urban quality of life, increase urban access to healthy fresh food, increase community resilience, and transform urban concrete jungles into green, highly productive spaces.
Brooklyn Grange is just one example of local entrepreneurs, small businesses and communities taking matters into their own hands to build community resilience. Urban farms are popping up quickly in the most unlikely of places – check out former professional basketball star Will Allen’s Growing Power Inc. sometime.
Allen, who quit a high-paid marketing job at Procter and Gamble and purchased a foreclosed nursery, now teaches urban farming to inner-city residents in Milwaukee. The local benefits are enormous: In addition to teaching urbanites that food really does miraculously sprout from seeds and soil rather than simply appearing in shiny grocery store display stands, the urban farming movement is reconnecting us to food in profoundly important ways.
Yes, the world seems full of bad news these days, and urban farming is still in its infancy, but the implications of what Brooklyn Grange and people like Will Smith are doing is potentially enormous and very exciting.
Now, take one last look at the picture above. Compare the concrete wasteland at ground level with what you see happening on the roof. It’s an amazingly stark contrast isn’t it? Where would you rather be?