Photo by Randy Douchaine
Ben Flanner raises over two acres of vegetables on two rooftop farms in New York. His Brooklyn Grange provides over 50,000 pounds of produce every year to restaurants, stores, farmers markets, and a 70-member CSA. We talk about the nuts and bolts of establishing a rooftop farming operation, the unique challenges of farming above the eleventh story, tools, distribution strategies, and how Brooklyn Grange has incorporated events hosting and outreach into its operation.
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Quotes from the Show
I don’t know of any productive rooftop farms that are any higher than the one we put up above the eleventh floor.
I joke sometimes that the wind is our groundhogs, deer, rabbits, all the mammals that we don’t have exposure to.
A large part of what we are doing is preaching and teaching and creating a hub of people to learn about farming.
Being in the city we do have an opportunity to rescue quite a bit of organics from the waste stream. There’s way more organics than we could ever figure out to handle.
We try to do [wholesale] sales about two days ahead of time, but it always ends up being the day of and the day before sometimes.
I think there’s a value for us to make the deliveries, but there’s also a value for folks to specialize.
People like this idea. Especially with environmental concerns and the environmental benefits of green roofs, people are excited about this.
It needs to be sort of a gentle education, like exposure and “what’s it like to pull a carrot of the ground,” to start to re-bridge that connection between urban society and our agricultural system.
We’re not out there saying that we’re going to massively change the food system so that all of our food is grown in the cities. That’s hyperbole that’s just not accurate in the world right now. But we’re proud to be running a business that works and we’re exposing the community to it.
Brooklyn Grange spawned a non-profit, City Growers, to provide outreach and education to New York’s youth.
The most valuable tool at Brooklyn Grange is the Johnny’s Four-Row Seeder, which provides precision seed placement. We also discussed the role of the seedbed roller to make the Four-Row Seeder really work well.
For Christmas, Ben would like a HarvestStar walk-behind baby leaf harvester from Sutton Ag.