There’s an increasing desire among city dwellers to have access to farm fresh food and healthier localities; New York’s innovative solution at Brooklyn Grange is leading the way.

This urban rooftop farm in the heart of New York started to take shape in 2009. Ben Flanner (now President and Head Farmer of Brooklyn Grange) was already working on a pioneering model at Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, using green roof technology to cultivate vegetables. Anastasia Cole Plaklas (VP and Founding Partner of Brooklyn Grange) and Gwen Schantz (CIO and Founding Partner of Brooklyn Grange) were working on an urban farming project at the time and got in touch with Ben to discuss their respective projects.

Brooklyn Navy Yard farm ©Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm

Brooklyn Navy Yard farm ©Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm

They each held an entrepreneurial dream to see urban agriculture practiced on a significant scale, and they set up the commercial rooftop farm business, Brooklyn Grange. A 43,000 square foot rooftop was found in Queens, and the rest was history. Over six days during the spring of 2010, the largest soil rooftop farm in the world was created. A second rooftop site was later added in Brooklyn, meaning more than two acres of urban farmland are now under cultivation in New York.

“When people ask me at dinner parties ‘what do you do?’ I tell them ‘you’ve never heard this one before!’ We really did something new, created a totally unique and unexplored model that no one has tried before. It’s a tangible representation of the vastness of human potential, of the infinite things we can accomplish.” – Chase Emmons, Managing Partner & Locations Director, Brooklyn Grange

Now, more than 200,000kg of vegetables have been sold to restaurants across New York thanks to Brooklyn Grange, and there are also now egg-laying hens and a commercial apiary. In addition, the rooftops have become community hubs. There are educational tours and workshops, covering everything from natural fabric dyes to making hot sauce. And there are evening yoga classes, dinner parties and wedding ceremonies.

Yoga at the Brooklyn Navy Yard farm ©Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm

Yoga at the Brooklyn Navy Yard farm ©Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm

“We New Yorkers have come to realize that you don’t have to give up a connection with nature just because we live in one of the biggest cities in the world.” – Gwen Schantz, Chief Operating Officer & Founding Partner, Brooklyn Grange

The Brooklyn Grange founders believe strongly in making cities more sustainable, and giving city dwellers a connection with food sources. They want the air to be cooler and waterways cleaner. They believe 14% of landfills that are comprised of food scraps should be converted to organic energy via active compost programmes. And overall, they believe food should be and taste fresh. Brooklyn Grange is already changing the face of New York lifestyles, and we’re excited to see what happens next in urban rooftop farming. Not just in New York, but across the world.

Website: Brooklyn Grange

Watch this film excerpt about Brooklyn Grange: Brooklyn Farmer