Organic Gardening

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Mulched potato plants

For several years we have had problems with our June-planted, October-harvested potatoes having too many green patches. I’ve been researching what to do, and sorting myth from reality. How poisonous are green potatoes? How can we get fewer green patches on our potatoes? How should we deal with green skin when we get it?

Here’s what seem to me to be the facts about green-skinned potatoes:

Why do potatoes turn green? The green is chlorophyll, caused by the potatoes being exposed to light. Chlorophyll is not poisonous. But the same conditions that promote chlorophyll production also increase the formation of solanine, which is poisonous. So the green is an indicator of likely trouble, but is not trouble itself.

Potatoes can also have dangerously high levels of poisonous solanine without being green. This can happen if the potatoes are diseased or damaged, or they are stored in warm temperatures, or they experience a spring frost and make only stunted growth as a result.

Solanine is one of the potato plant’s natural defenses against diseases such as late blight, and against pest attacks.

Just discarding all green-skinned potatoes won’t remove all the solanine from our plates. Solanine is a glycoalkaloid found at some level in all nightshade crops.

Apparently the amount of solanine in an average-sized serving of potatoes is easily broken down by the body and excreted. “[S]olanine levels in the blood are low after ingestion due to poor absorption by the gastrointestinal tract. Second, it is removed from the body fairly rapidly in both the urine and the feces, usually within 12 hours, preventing accumulation in the tissues. Third, intestinal bacteria aids in the detoxification by hydrolyzing the glycoside into solanidine (aglycone), which is less toxic than solanine and also poorly absorbed.” Andrew Montario, Cornell University

It takes 2-5 mg of solanine per kilogram of body weight to cause toxic symptoms, and 3-6 mg per kilogram of body weight to cause death.

A regular (not green) potato can contain 8 mg of solanine or 12-20 mg of total glycoalkaloids per kilogram of potato.

So to get 2 mg solanine per kg of body weight, a 100 lb (45.35 kg) person eating regular (not green) potatoes would have to eat about 90 mg of solanine, or at least 11.25 kg (about 25 lbs) of potatoes, within the 12 hours or so before the compound starts being excreted.

Green potatoes contain 250-280 mg/kg of total glycoalkaloids, 20 times the level of non-green potatoes. The make-you-sick dose of 90 mg of solanine for the 100 lb person could be found in 0.6 kg (about 1.25 lbs) of green tubers. That’s green-all-over potatoes.

Our calculation is backed up by Alexander Pavlista at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln who says that a 100 lb person would have to eat about one pound of fully green potatoes to get sick. That is equivalent to one very large baked potato – diet sites on the internet are full of estimates of weight of potatoes. His report recommends cutting away the green parts.

Green skins contain 1500-2200 mg/kg total glycoalkaloids. That’s just the skin. Don’t eat just green skins!

Various reports give figures of 30-50 mg solanine /100 gm potato; 24 mg/100 gm, 40 gm/100 gm for green-skinned potatoes. See, for example, The Smithsonian article of October 21 2013 by K Annabelle Smith.

Potato shoots (sprouts) are high in solanine. They can contain 2000-4000 mg/kg of glyclakaloids. These figures are from  Is It Safe to Eat?: Enjoy Eating and Minimize Food Risks, by Ian Shaw

“Solanine levels above 14mg/100g are bitter in taste. Cultivar[s] with greater than 20mg/100g cause a burning sensation in the throat and mouth.” Andrew Montario, Cornell University

The Lenape potato was developed in the 1960’s for industry to make attractive golden potato chips (it’s hard to make good chips without burning them). But studies showed that Lenape produced a very high level of solanine, and it was pulled from the market in 1974.

The toxic dose varies, depending on the individual’s tolerance as well as the ratio of solanine to the rest of the potato eaten.

The symptoms of solanine poisoning include gastro-intestinal problems, and harder-to-recover-from neurological disorders.

Victims of solanine poisoning usually make a full recovery.

People who don’t get treatment, or were undernourished to start with, are the ones most likely to get a fatal dose.

The British Medical Journal of 8 December 1979 reports that there is normally a high concentration-gradient between the peel and the flesh, but this is lost when potatoes are exposed to light or stored in adverse conditions. This means the level of solanine quickly drops as you peel deeper into the potato, unless the potatoes were exposed to light or were stored in a warm place for several weeks or more.


Potato digging by machine

Here are some green potato myths, and the information I’ve found:

Some studies have shown a link between pregnant women eating potatoes suffering from Late Blight (which increases levels of solanine and other glycoalkaloids) and spina bifida in the fetus. But other studies have found no link at all between eating potatoes and birth defects.

“Solanine is fat-soluble, so deep-frying reduces the danger.” The Department of Animal Science at Cornell University says that solanum-type glycoalkaloids are not destroyed by cooking.

“Solanine is water-soluble, so boiling lowers the levels.” An infamous 1979 case of 78 London school children getting very sick after eating boiled potatoes that had been stored improperly over the summer vacation seems to prove this belief not true. (All made a full recovery.) Results of a study by Takagi, Toyoda, Fujiyama and Saito “confirmed the relatively high stability of CHA [alpha-chaconine, the other main alkaloid in potatoes] and SOL [solanine] in potatoes under normal home cooking conditions.”

The US National Institutes of Health advises never to eat potatoes that are green under the skin. This is ambiguous and has been interpreted to mean either: throw out all potatoes with any green bits, or cut off the green skin and also any green flesh under the skin and eat the rest of the potato. Most people seem to cut off the green bits and use the rest.

“Eating nightshades makes arthritis worse.” This seems to be an entirely different issue, as no source lists arthritis as a symptom of solanine poisoning.


Root cellar storing potatoes

Here are 10 steps to safe and healthy potato eating:

1. When you grow potatoes, try to cover them fully with soil or mulch, so that they are not exposed to light.

2. Give plants enough space so that the developing potatoes are not crowded and pushed up above the soil surface.

3. If mowing to reduce weeds before mechanical harvest, keep the length of time between mowing and harvest to a minimum. For the same reason, harvest soon after removing mulch. Hand digging can be done without removing weeds or mulch first, but there is a limit on how much one person can hand-harvest.

4. When harvesting, minimize damage to the tubers.

5. When sorting potatoes for storage, do not put all the ones showing any green in the same container. Leave the green-skinned potatoes mixed with the others, so that no-one gets a higher amount than average.


Potatoes in the root cellar stored in plastic crates 

6. When storing potatoes, keep them in the dark, and cool. Don’t store them for longer than necessary. There seems no need to worry about storage up to one year or so, as generations of potato growers have provided for their family needs this way.

7. Apparently there is no reason to use green potatoes sooner than others. Nor is there apparently any advantage to storing them longer in the hope of de-toxifying them.

8. When preparing potatoes for eating, cut off and compost the green bits. Don’t use all the greened potatoes in the same meal. Reduce the risk by mixing greened and plenty of non-greened potatoes.

9. When eating, spit out any potato that tastes bitter.

10 Enjoy eating your potatoes fried, boiled, mashed, chipped, baked, roasted.

Photo Credits: 

Root cellar Photo by McCune Porter

Potato digger Photo by Twin Oaks Community

Mulched potato plant Photo by Kathryn Simmons

Potato crates in cellar Photo by Nina Gentle

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



Elaine Walker and Kara Gilbert met as freshmen at the University of Oregon. Both city kids – Elaine from San Francisco and Kara from Portland – they hit it off immediately and began a friendship that would enable them, years later, to reunite and begin building a new type of farm in rural Yamhill County, Oregon. The foundation for this new adventure was built through shared interests and experiences which began during those early days in Eugene.

During college, in addition to their urban roots, both young women shared a passion for helping people in need. They pursued interests in social justice, in creating opportunities within underserved communities, and in educating disadvantaged urban youth. They also both happened to enroll in a university course called Urban Farm, which taught them how to grow vegetables, exposed them to our country’s ever worsening food justice issues, and allowed them to discover just how much they enjoyed working outdoors.

The Urban Farm instructors encouraged all their students to participate in the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) program, in which people exchange labor for room and board on organic farms around the world, because doing so enables students to learn how organic farms in differing cultures and environments approach sustainable agriculture. Though not together, both Elaine and Kara stepped on this path.

While still an undergrad, Kara began her studies abroad in Italy, working on three different farms… “My goal was to work with three farm families and have them all be really different,” she explained. “I was able to spend time learning from one couple who had a bit more experience, and then stayed with two younger couples who were just really going for it. Everything about that experience was cool, and after getting my undergrad degree I wanted to continue to travel, so I did the same thing in South America at a permaculture center in northern Patagonia.”

Argentina was followed by Hawaii, where Kara spent time working at a special farm that offered a permaculture therapy program. Young people would go to the farm and work the land as way of creating change in their lives, or as Kara says, “It was basically a place to work out a lot of their problems, and it worked. That experience was inspiring for me.”

After Hawaii, Kara returned to Portland to attend graduate school at Portland State University in a program called Leadership in Ecology, Culture, and Learning (now Leadership for Sustainability Education). And while she studied garden education in that program, she was running a sixth and seventh grade garden program at Lane Middle School in Portland, and continuing her youth therapy work. A three year stint at a working CSA farm following grad school brought her to the point of wanting to begin her own program on a working farm.

Naturally, Kara called her best friend Elaine to see if she wanted to take the leap with her, because she knew that Elaine had been following a similar track.

After majoring in journalism – “I thought it might help change the world if I could get better information out to people.” – she found herself working in an office and not feeling good about it. So she left the office world behind and went to the permaculture center in Patagonia based on Kara’s recommendation. While there, she was able to complete some projects that Kara had begun during her stay, and more importantly, she cemented her desire to work outdoors and learn to grow things.

“After WWOOFing, I went home to San Francisco and became a garden educator,” said Elaine. “Initially I was working in Oakland with elementary schools and after school programs. And then I spent a summer working at Pie Ranch in Pescadero.”

Pie Ranch is a well known educational farm that works to bridge the urban/rural divide by bringing urban high school students to the country to learn about organic food and how to grow it. Pie Ranch also actively participates in the process of training a new generation of farmers who will work to integrate farms into the larger community and the web of nature.

“I soaked up as much knowledge and experience as I could at Pie Ranch,” explained Elaine, “and then after spending some time back in San Francisco at a local garden, I enrolled in an agroecological school in Santa Cruz called the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. A lot of people who run CSAs, especially in California, have gone through that program. We ran a 75 member CSA, so it was very much a working farm, and it was great to get that hands-on experience. Then as I was finishing up that program, I knew I wanted to farm, but I wasn’t sure where to go. That’s when Kara called and said she had found some land in Oregon and that we should start a farm, and eventually, an educational program. So I moved up here, and we started Vibrant Valley Farm.”

To be continued…

Get your copy of Planting A Future: Profiles from Oregon’s New Farm Movement.

Ed. note: Since being interviewed for this profile, Kara and Elaine have relocated their farm to Sauvie’s Island, an agricultural community located just north of Portland, Ore.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



When I first started gardening in this place, I was surveying my four by ten raised bed of greens with pride one afternoon. “You really are a farmer, not a gardener,” a friend observed. I nodded. Every year, I am more aware of my fate. Here are some signs that you, too, may be an urban farmer, not a gardener.

1. You find dried bean seeds and straw in your pockets.

2. You use the roof of your van to harvest the apples and plums from the high branches.

3. You turn to binder twine and five gallon buckets rather than organic hemp twine and a trug.

4.You talk compost with strangers.

5. You can repair a leaky hose in five minutes flat, including three trips to turn the water on or off.

6. You haul foraged fruit home in your bike baskets.

7. You realize, half way through a professional meeting, that you have dirt somewhere. Fingernails? Hand cracks? Knees? No, not all three!

8. You find yourself hauling something in a five gallon bucket at least four times a day.

9. Your crops come in pounds, not ones or twos.

10. You cannot see your house for the plants in September.

11. You never turn down an offer of canning jars.

12. You read Farmer Boy and The Permaculture Manual for inspiration.

13. You realize that it is, really, all about the soil, not the new, cool varieties in the front of the seed catalogs.

To read more about the Twenty First Street Urban Homestead, check out Charlyn's blog.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Each region of our country has something special to offer. With a unique set of climactic and topographic challenges, the methods used to live a life in tune with nature certainly vary from place to place. That is why the idea of sustainability and farm tours is so appealing; it is a chance to see how different communities are stepping up to the challenge of creating their own solutions to the modern problem of leading lives that are re-connected to the natural world.

This is the second year our town of Leavenworth, Washington has come together to host a sustainability tour - The Sustainable Living and Farming Tour.  Spearheaded by Dave and Nancy Bartholomew, the tour has come to incorporate local farms, small business and customized homes all into a weekend long event which includes on-farm demonstrations, guest speakers (like our keynote this year Paul Roberts; author of The End of Oil, The End of Food and The Impulse Society) and a ‘tour of homes’ style self-guided tour.

Our farm, Tierra Garden Organics, is included again as part of this year’s tour. Last year, we were overwhelmed by the number of people who came to participate in the sustainability tour. Folks arrived from all over Washington, Canada, Oregon and beyond with a myriad of questions and a desire for learning. So this season, we decided to host an on-farm fall planting workshop since the tour will be taking place September 12th and 13th.

This will be one of the last chances of the year to be planting fall crops and overwintering cover crops. It will also be a chance to show people what a full production, diversified vegetable farm looks like when going into the fall and winter. Our summer cover crops will be ready for incorporation, the high tunnels will be filled with tomatoes, peppers and other cold-sensitive crops, the bees hives will be full of honey and the fall broccoli, lettuce, Brussel sprouts, etc… will be on their way to maturity. All told, it is a beautiful time to visit the farm. Also, this year, guests will be able to view the new solar array that was installed at the farm, and the layout and plans for our new efficient garden house that is currently under construction.

But our farm is just one of many sites participating in this season’s tour. Other sites will host demonstrations on working with alpacas and llamas, beekeeping, vermiculture, fermentation, edible forestry, small scale bio-char production, raising chickens or goats, community growing spaces, solar production, environmental design and construction and even some choices for sustainability-minded shopping. 


I will admit that I have been hesitant to participate in a large-scale farm tour. As a tour destination, some of the logistics (such as providing restrooms and parking) can feel a little overwhelming — especially when we are still fully immersed in the work of farming season. However, as a member of the Leavenworth community, I think it is important that tours like this happen because it cements the idea that sustainable-minded business practices and lifestyles are not ‘fringe’ anymore but are very much a part of everyday life.

The tour brings together so many families who are all working in their own way to manifest their hope for a brighter future; one that relies less and less on the global economy and more and more on the strength of local producers. And I believe strongly in education. A sustainability tour is a chance to educate the general public on the notion that small lifestyle choices can, indeed, change the world.

So, if you happen to be around Leavenworth Washington this coming September 12th and 13th, stop in and say Hi. We’d love to see you and have a chance to exchange ideas. Information and tickets for the tour can be found by visiting Simply Living Farm or by contacting us via email. After expenses, proceeds from the tour have benefited the local food bank and our local farmers market.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



What if you could cut your household waste in half... before you even recycled a single can?

According to a 2013 report from the EPA, 14.6 percent of America's trash was food wastes, another 13.5 percent was yard trimmings, 6.2 percent was wood and 27 percent was composed of paper and cardboard. The remaining 38.7 percent was mostly comprised of glass, plastic, metals, and other non-biodegradable materials.

When most people think about composting, they think about pitching their coffee grounds and banana peels into a bin... yet if you really took advantage of Nature's system, you can compost a LOT more than that!

Dairy, bones, bread, ramen noodles... those sorts of things hit the trashcan, rather than the compost bin, thanks to the restrictive rules we're used to hearing from most authorities. Out of all your food scraps, you're probably only returning half to the soil. So... perhaps 7 percent of your waste?

Ridiculous! We can do a lot better than that! We can reduce waste by 50 percent!

All food wastes can be composted. In fact, my recent book Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting covers multiple methods for disposing of everything from fish guts to big logs—no trash service required! The Native Americans did it. Austrians have done it. The Chinese have done it. Why can't we?

What if we were to compost all of our food scraps... all of our yard trimmings... all the wood... and all the paper?

I know, you're going to tell me that stuff won't work in a bin. "What about glossy magazines with perfume samples or the little plastic envelope windows in the speeding ticket reminders I keep getting?"

Okay, you're right. We may not be able to kill all the potentially biodegradable waste... but I'll lay odds we can compost at least 50% of the waste that would normally hit the curb.

I've composted meat, paper, human waste, bones, logs and more. It's taken me a decade of practice, but we've gotten composting down to a science.

One of my favorite methods is to just dig a pit near a tree I'd like to feed or a future garden I'm going to build, then throw all the cardboard, bones, spoiled beef stew and other rough scraps into it. Nature does the rest. Keep a few bags of fall leaves on hand and you can cover the layers as you add them. If you're afraid of animals digging it up, dig a deeper pit and pile on the dirt. Tree roots will find the good stuff—and you're not contributing any of that organic matter to an over-stuffed landfill!

Even if you started making a paper and cardboard pile in a bin off to one side of your yard, you could reduce your waste by over 25 percent. That's a LOT over the course of a year!

Compost is the answer. Start to think about all the organic matter that's hitting your trash and how you can do better to reduce waste by getting extreme with your composting. I guarantee you'll find ways.

If you feel guilt over all you're throwing away, it's okay. I felt the same way—and we did something about it.

You can too!

David Goodman (AKA David The Good) is so serious about reducing waste that he wrote a book on it titled Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting. He's also written two other books on Florida gardening (both available on Amazon). Additionally, David is the creator of the popular 5-day-a-week gardening website The Survival Gardener. Go there and sign up for his newsletter today to get a free copy of his survival crop comic book (which stars a demented camel). David currently lives somewhere in the great state of Florida on a productive one-acre homestead covered with fruit and nut trees, garden beds, lizards, mosquitoes and children.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


According to the North Carolina Cooperative Extension bulletin Celebrate with Safe Salsa, salsa is one of the most popular condiments used in the United States. When you go to a Mexican restaurant, they even bring it to your table with chips while you are waiting for your order. Besides corn chips, you can use it on so many things, such as potatoes, eggs, and meat. We like to add salsa to our homegrown cowpeas.

Often based on tomatoes, peppers, and onions, salsa can vary due to the type of tomatoes and peppers used. Paste tomatoes will give you a thicker product, while the type of peppers chosen can result in salsa ranging in taste from very mild to very hot. There are other ingredients you can add to change the flavor. When making your own salsa you can decide just how smooth or chunky it is by how finely you chop the vegetables.

Canning Garden-Fresh Salsa in a Water Bath Canner

I am all for experimenting in the kitchen and when you are making salsa to eat fresh, experiment all you want — store the extra in the fridge, and use it within a week. However, if you are going to be canning salsa, there are some guidelines you need to follow to make sure you have a safe product.

These guidelines apply to canning salsa in a water bath canner. Water bath canning is safe for foods that are high in acid. Pressure canning is for low-acid foods. If you were to combine vegetables, with the resulting combination having a pH greater than 4.6, you would need to use a pressure canner and choose the length of time for processing according to the vegetable in the mixture that requires the longest time.

Water Bath Canning with Vinegar or Lemon Juice

As long as you follow a tested recipe, you will be good. The canning books are loaded with safe recipes and you will find some in Celebrate with Safe Salsa. Vinegar and lemon juice help bring the acidity to the level needed to use a water bath. The vinegar used needs to be at least 5% acidity (this is important).

Homemade vinegar and freshly squeezed lemon juice are not recommended because the level of acidity is not known. Unless, of course, you have a way of checking to make sure it is at least 5%. Bottled lemon juice tends to be more acidic than vinegar. You can substitute lemon juice for vinegar, but you can’t substitute vinegar for lemon juice.

Salsa is one of the easiest things to make from your garden harvest. Although I tend not to can as much as I used to, preferring to use fermentation and drying as my methods of preservation, as well as growing crops that store well on their own, I like having canned salsa as a convenience food. Most everything I need comes from the garden, except for the vinegar and salt. You can learn more about my salsa making at Homeplace Earth.

If you are into eating as close to home as you can, making salsa from ingredients from your garden and your farmers market can increase the variety of dishes on your table. Get creative and use it to add some zing to what you already eat.

Take a Local Food Challenge

If you are serious about local eating, you might want to join the 10-Day Local Food Challenge and participate in the challenge coming up in October. It is a fun way to gauge how far you have come on your local food journey. With that in mind, make some salsa from ingredients as local as you can find them and enjoy the results!

Cindy Conner is the author of Seed Libraries and Grow a Sustainable Diet (available in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store) and has produced DVDs about garden planning and managing cover crops with hand tools. Learn more about what she is up to at Homeplace Earth.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



© Anastasia Cole Plakias, Brooklyn Grange Farm 

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Ben Flanner, at the Missouri Organic Association Conference held in Springfield, Missouri, a while back. Ben Flanner is the Head Farmer and President of Brooklyn Grange Farm, a for-profit roof-top farm in New York City, New York. The Brooklyn Grange has sites in both Brooklyn and Queens.  Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Flanner is a transplant to NYC. Flanner has always had an affinity for gardening. Some of his most vivid childhood memories include gardening with his mother in Wisconsin. He would help her plant, weed, water, and harvest. She taught him how to cook, how to make pickles and how to preserve the bounty.  These life lessons he learned early on have made their way full circle back into his life time and time again. The time spent with his mother in the garden sculpted his life and he holds her in reverence for giving him those experiences.

An engineer by trade, Flanner had a fascination for the rhythms of big cities. After college, he spent five years at a desk job, however he was interested in a more physically active profession. . The yearning subsided when he was again embraced by the fresh air and sunshine he longed for on those tiring 9-5 work weeks stuck between four walls and fluorescent lights.

He became more and more intrigued by agriculture and desired to combine his formal training with his reclaimed passion for growing food. Upon his return to New York in 2009, Flanner co-founded the Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, the very first roof top farm in New York at the time. Flanner is truly a pioneer in the roof top farm culture and continues to make new advances in energy efficient systems associated with roof top agriculture. His goal was to tackle some of the problems faced by the green roof industry for several decades including maximum efficiency for weight and water capacity. Traditionally, green roofs were planted with sedum, grasses and wildflowers. Flanner had a strong desire to grow a diverse array of edible crops. In 2010, Flanner helped to launch a highly successful Kickstarter campaign. Between Kickstarter, private investment, and loans, the farm raised $200,000 to fund their initial green roof farm installation. With backers and ongoing support, Brooklyn Grange now employs eleven motivated and talented individuals to manage their farms, events onsite, and installations and maintenance contracts offsite. 

Brooklyn Grange Farm now umbrellas two functioning rooftop farms which encompass 2.5 acres. The farms combined harvest above 50,000 lbs of organically-grown vegetables, herbs and flowers per year. They grow a myriad produce including tomatoes, peppers, chard, kale, mixed herbs, cucumbers, turnips, radishes, and many other items.

In addition, they operate an apiary, home to upwards of 30 honey bee hives that are managed naturally. These hives are located on various rooftops throughout New York City. Brooklyn Grange also has a line of hot sauce. They sell thousands of bottles of their signature hot sauce at their farmers markets, to local chefs, and online.


© Anastasia Cole Plakias, Brooklyn Grange Farm

Brooklyn Grange Farm is a farm which uses only hand methods to create permanent raised beds. They aim for as little soil disturbance as possible to prevent erosion and for the benefit of the microorganisms in the soil. They use a high nutrient compost with a light weight stone. Their seeds are purchased through FedCo seeds, Johnny’s, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and Kitazawa seeds. Their success has relied in part by a consistent analysis of what works best- the crops that are the most drought tolerant, crops with the best yields, best economics. For example, their gourmet salad mix and arugula are easy to grow and maintain, they offer a high yield and an excellent economic return. The success of the farm has also been determined by using the best possible equipment.

They use tried and true small hand tools and seeders that have been endorsed by experts in the field such as the Johnny’s 4 way seeder, the stirrup hoe, a metal rake, and hand held weeding tools. They also do a great deal of hand weeding to maintain beds.


© Anastasia Cole Plakias, Brooklyn Grange Farm

Brooklyn Grange has an amazing community outreach program geared toward budding farmers, foodies, and children intrigued by the thought of being on a roof top farm in the heart of the city. They offer regular community days. Yoga session are schedule weekly on the rooftop farm. They host a weekly roof top farmers market. They host a plethora of workshops which range in topics from Beekeeping, to Cheese Making, to Fermenting.

Flanner also teaches off-site workshops and consults on topics including farm planning, finances, and crop planning.

Brooklyn Grange is a field-trip destination for over 10,000 urban youth since 2010. One of Flanner’s greatest joys is witnessing their eyes light up when they first step foot on the rooftop farm. Once they have a look around, they seem to be in sheer awe of the seed to table connection.

Future projects include more roof top farms on more roofs throughout the city. Flanner wants to gaze out at a sea of green when he’s standing on the roof top at Brooklyn Grange Farm, whether the green be vegetables or other types of green roofs. His goal is to continue to grow great produce, while training and inspiring more farmers and good eaters, ranging from high school kids, to young and inspired adults, to college students, to middle aged professionals who wish to transition to into farming, to retirees. Anyone can grow. Doing what you can with the space you have to make it as great as possible is the mantra Flanner refers back to in his daily life. “Rooftop farming has been a great opportunity to create two and a half acres of green space in densely populated New York City. It allows us to grow beautiful vegetables, flowers and herbs while engaging our community into the local foods movement. People have become so far removed from their connection to food. Brooklyn Grange Farms inspire healthier and ecologically sound food choices to those in our community.”  

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

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