Brooklyn Grange is alive, in the truest sense of the word. This urban organic farm, located in Queens, New York, buzzes with energy from the very moment you step out of the elevator doors and onto the sunbathed rooftop. In 2009, five Brooklyn natives started this commercial enterprise to cultivate and sell fresh produce to the local community. Today, the farm stretches an acre wide and innocuously cohabits with the air conditioning units on the roof as well as the 6-story office space below. A second location is also in the works, located in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. On the farm, the verdant vegetation grows in the innovative and lightweight Rooflite soil, specially engineered for use in green-roof systems across the country. The crops themselves are a diverse polyculture, and include Over the Rainbow carrots, Neon Lights Swiss chard, tomatoes, eggplants, and sun ripened raspberries. Prior to my internship at this farm, I had no exposure to such a wide assortment of vegetables, and consequently, the beds upon beds of fresh vegetables are not only a source of fresh food, but also a source of fresh farming education. Brooklyn Grange recognizes this capacity and extends its educational influence to the community with tours for groups of all kinds. School aged children, for instance, are given the opportunity to learn about where food comes from before it reaches the supermarket shelves. A partner nonprofit organization, City Growers, offers farm tours and workshops for school children in grades K-12.
Brooklyn Grange also lends its space to event hosting, which presents the incredible opportunity to dine and immerse your company in a uniquely vibrant farm atmosphere. Your guests might even be inspired to participate in the volunteer days, usually on Saturdays. These volunteer days are open to the public and are a great way to nurture your green thumb. If you’re looking for a more committed way to get involved, Brooklyn Grange also has an internship program to which students from any field of study and an interest in farming can apply. The internship truly is a hands-on educational process, and what we learn each day can range from how to use a stirrup hoe to why we should harvest basil plants the way we do. The relaxed, yet goal-oriented atmosphere is a great way to contribute to the local food movement and gain a practical education.
The farm also maintains some chickens, checked daily for fresh eggs, which contributes to the bounty sold during the weekly Wednesday markets. Brooklyn Grange is also the site of CSA (community supported agriculture) pickups, where weekly goodies available include fresh kale, baby carrots, and herb bundles. At the weekly market, located in the lobby, you choose among tea mixes and fresh honey from the apiary, which can also be found atop the same roof. Visitors are always encouraged to visit the farm itself every Wednesday, from noon to 6pm. In addition to the markets, Brooklyn Grange sells its produce to restaurants in the area.
Brooklyn Grange and all its services attest that the organization really is more than just an urban farm. The environment benefits from the green roof’s storm water management, moderation of the heat island effect, and improved air quality. Amidst a field of steel and concrete, this rooftop stands as a green beacon for sustainable, naturally grown food, as well as community involvement and environmental sustainability. Any visitor can witness, participate, and carry away the idea of sustainability, the results of which can branch out and amplify to a wide network of New Yorkers. The view of lush green crops growing against the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline is a true testament to the potential of urban farming and its capacity to advance the local food movement.
For more information, visit the website, http://www.brooklyngrangefarm.com/, or visit the farm itself at 37-18 Northern Blvd, Long Island City, NY 11101, open to the public every Wednesday from noon to 6pm.