13 July 2012

Rooftop Farming in the Big Apple

Written by Published in Food

Above a façade of stern Brooklyn brownstones, Eagle Street Rooftop Farm bursts with a burgeoning crop of organic vegetables, chickens and apiaries. A bucolic oasis thriving on the edge of the East River, Eagle Street is one of the few places to find crimson chili peppers growing against a panoptic view of the Manhattan skyline. Offering the Greenpoint area hyper-local produce, this 6,000-square-foot, organic vegetable farm sets a precedent within the urban farming movement

Farmers Annie Novak and Ben Flanner planted their first seeds at Eagle Street in 2010. The farm’s bounty now encompasses more than thirty varieties of vegetables, fruits and herbs, which are distributed to six local restaurants, weekly CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members, and also sold at an open market each Sunday. Their fresh produce is delivered to neighbourhood eateries daily by bicycle – a symbol of the farm’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions.

Cultivating a lasting relationship between producer and consumer, Eagle Street provides classes on a variety of topics that all highlight the journey of food from soil to kitchen. More than a convenient boon to the foodie community, this rooftop farm is also mindful of environmental sustainability.

Making the most of New York’s spatial limitations, the farm is built on a green rooftop and supported by a 100-year-old, steel beam-reinforced building below. Installed by Goode Green, the roof can hold over 1.5’’ of rainwater, reducing runoff during storms and abating pressure on the city’s antiquated drainage system and “overtaxed water treatment facility,” volunteer Brian Cicero remarks. In addition to distributing the wealth of water to plants, the retained H2O aids in cooling the cavernous warehouse beneath, dramatically cutting cooling costs. “The roof is sloped which really makes this an ideal spot,” Annie tells me.

In the summertime, rows of organic heirloom tomatoes, peppers, kale, arugula (rocket) and basil flourish under the Brooklyn sunshine. Apart from the rather enviably picturesque location, it was the farmers’ commitment, courage, and environmental convictions that were fundamental in the successful creation of this rooftop farm. After only three growing seasons, Eagle Street has emerged as a thoughtful and progressive pioneer in the urban sustainability movement.

Eagle Street Rooftop Farm
is open to the public on Sunday’s 13:00 - 16:00

44 Eagle Street, Brooklyn, NY 11222

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