Yell It from the Roof-Top Farm! Brooklyn Grange Farm is Planting the Way


| 8/17/2015 10:24:00 AM


Tags: rooftop garden, urban farming, Crystal Stevens, New York,

 

© 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.




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