Our second farm, located atop Building no. 3 at the historic Brooklyn Navy Yard, is a massive 65,000 sq ft roof towering eleven stories over the East River. The lion’s share of the financing for the installation of the Navy Yard farm was granted by the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP’s) Green Infrastructure Stormwater Management Initiative. We manage over one million gallons of stormwater each year, easing the burden on the overtaxed Red Hook Wastewater Pollution Control Plant, which services 32,000 acres of Northwest Brooklyn, and ultimately reducing the amount of waste water that overflows into our city’s open waterways. The Navy Yard is New York legend: ask any octogenarian in the area and they’ll tell you a story about a spouse or sibling who worked there way back when. At present, the BNY continues to encompass several fully functional dry docks as well as several dozen of New York City’s most exciting businesses, artists and innovators.
The first time we spotted our flagship farm on Northern Boulevard, we knew we’d found our home. Erected in 1919, this behemoth is built like a rock, with a solid concrete slab roof and enough rebar to withstand three times the load of our soil and plants. Located just over the 39th St bridge on the Astoria side of Long Island City, our flagship farm is lucky enough to make its home in one of the most multicultural communities in the world. And just as diverse as our neighborhood, the Standard Motor Products building on which the farm sits hosts an amazing variety of businesses, including its namesake, the original American car parts manufacturer; Jim Henson studios, and a newly opened restaurant, Coffeed, which features our shelf stable farm products. Owned and operated by Jeff Rosenblum and Ashish Dua of Acumen Capital Partners, 37-18 Northern Boulevard hosts a weekly market in the lobby on Wednesday afternoons and is home to a daily spirit of creativity, building-wide!
Brooklyn Grange Bees, AKA BGBees, is New York City’s first and largest commercial apiary. What’s an apiary? Just a fancy term for a bee farm! The Apiary is located within The Brooklyn Navy Yard’s 300 private acres, the perfect location for a tightly controlled, all natural, urban beekeeping operation. Featuring over 30 hives, the apiary produces loads of honey each year. Comb honey, wax, propolis, pollen – BGBees has it all.
In addition to hive products, Brooklyn Grange Bees is engaged in a beekeeping apprenticeship program, and a queen bee breeding program that will ultimately supply the NYC beekeeping community with local bees. Up until now, beekeepers in the NYC area have had to purchase their bees from the southeastern United States. Disease, winter survivability, and poor temperament are all issues that plague this system and result in beekeepers losing hives each year. BGBees is selectively breeding queens to create a genetic strain of bees that thrive in the unique NYC environment. These bees are proven to be disease resistant, are hardy enough to survive cold winters, and are mild in temperament.
While honey, hive products, and bees are our bread and butter, our core mission also includes a beekeeping apprenticeship program for NYC residents. The apprentice program was launched in 2012 with the hard work of Chase Emmons and Tim O’Neal. Each year, a group of apprentices is chosen from hundreds of applicants. Apprentices work in the apiary for an entire season and all equipment and tools are provided. In return for this opportunity, apprentices pledge to return in the subsequent season to take on their own apprentice, creating what we call a “Pay-It-Forward” program. Not only are we breeding local bees, we are breeding local beekeepers!