FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What kind of company is Brooklyn Grange?
Brooklyn Grange is a commercial urban farm, meaning we grow food and sell it. We believe that soil-based urban agriculture has the capacity to help fund the creation and maintenance of green spaces that cities sorely need. We want farming to become a thriving and viable industry in cities, and we believe that by practicing urban agriculture as a fiscally sustainable business, we can prove that it is worthy of investment. We also believe that any good business serves its community and it's ecosystem, which means we are always thinking about how we can have a more positive social and ecological impact on our city!
Where do you sell your produce?
We sell our produce directly to the community at two weekly markets well as to several local restaurants and retail stores. We have a thriving CSA program through which we distribute shares from Mid-May through October.
How big is the farm?
We farm two rooftops in New York City. Our one-acre (43,000 square foot) Flagship Farm is made up of roughly 1.2 million lbs of soil. Our Navy Yard farm covers a full 65,000 square foot building, or about an acre and a half. Our total rooftop farming area is 2.5 acres, or about 108,000 square feet.
Can the building hold that much weight?
Yes, absolutely! Our farms were designed and installed with the support of engineers who assessed and approved the sites. Both roofs are made of thick reinforced concrete slab, approved for loads far in excess of the materials that we have installed.
What kind of soil do you use?
We source our soil from Skyland in Pennsylvania, a green roof media supplier. The blend is called Rooflite, and is composed of mushroom compost blended with additional organic inputs and mixed with lightweight, porous stones, or "aggregate." The aggregate makes the material lighter in weight, ensure that it drains well, and also slowly add trace minerals needed by the vegetables. At our Flagship Farm, we used Rooflite's Intensive blend, then were fortunate to work with the soil scientists at Rooflite to develop their Agriculture blend when designing our Navy Yard site.
How are the farms built?
Both farms consist of green roof systems laid down before the soil. At our Flagship Farm in LIC, we installed a green roof system distributed by Conservation Technology consisting of a layer of root-barrier, which prevents our plants’ roots from penetrating the surface of the roof; a thick layer of geotextile “filter” or “separation” fabric; drainage plates with small cups to hold excess water from heavy rainstorms (the soil and plants wick this stored water up in dry conditions to keep our water use down), and finally, a thin layer of filter fabric to prevent the drainage mats from filling up with the 8-10″ of Rooflite Intensive blend soil. The soil and materials to build this farm were transported via crane and buggy.
Our second farm at the Brooklyn Navy Yard was installed atop a roof membrane that included a built-in root barrier, so the system we used there is a bit simpler. It is comprised of a light weight drainage aggregate sandwiched between filter fabric and topped with 10-12″ of Rooflite IntensiveAg blend soil. The soil for this farm was installed using a blower truck.
What are you growing on the roof?
We grow dozens of crops each season and harvest about 50,000 lbs of produce every year. Our biggest seller and a favorite amongst our farmers and customers alike are our fresh, flavorful leafy greens: from spicy baby mustards to tender young lettuces and peppery arugula, a Brooklyn Grange Greens Mix salad barely needs dressing!
Tomatoes are another of our biggest crops: we have 40 varietals planted. We are also growing peppers, kale, chard, chicories, ground cherries, eggplants, pac choi, herbs, carrots, turnips, radishes, beans, and many other exciting crops!
Finally, we grow microgreens in our greenhouses year-round. Their production gives our company a more steady stream of revenue year round, which in turn creates year-round farming jobs, and keeps us better connected to chefs and restaurants during the off season.
Is the farm organic?
We grow our vegetables according to organic principles, and we do not use any synthetic or chemical fertilizers, insecticides or herbicides. You can learn more about our farming practices here, or visit us and certify our practices with your own five senses.
How do you grow fresh produce in a polluted city?
Pollution is definitely a concern for city farmers, but the pollutants of greatest concern are heavy metals, such as lead, and automotive brake pad particulates. Both are denser than air, so vegetables grown on a rooftop high above the roadways are protected from these contaminants. The limited lifespan of plants mean they absorb significantly less contamination than our lungs do. We’ve had our air quality tested, and it’s great!
How was the farm financed?
The Flagship Farm was financed through a combination of private equity, loans, grassroots fundraising events, and the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter.com. The Brooklyn Navy Yard farm was made possible in large part through the support of the Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Infrastructure Stormwater Management grant program, New York City’s innovative and proactive approach to managing combined sewer overflow.
Does the business lease the rooftops it cultivates?
Yes; we have a 15 year lease from RXR Realty and a 20 year lease from the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Is the farm profitable?
Yes. We broke even in our first year, became profitable in year three, and have shown steady growth every season since we opened. We plan to continue expanding in the coming years, so we can employ more farmers, and have an increasingly important impact on the ecology of New York City. We now have fifteen full-time employees as well as over 40 seasonal and/or part-time staff.
What do you do in the winter?
We farm the roof about nine months of the year. In the winter, we use nitrogen-fixing “cover crops,” like clover, oats, and vetch to add nutrients back into our soil and prevent erosion. We also grow amazing microgreens in a greenhouse atop the Navy Yard, and work on other projects, like writing books (The Farm on the Roof, by our co-founder, Anastasia Cole Plakias, was published by Penguin Random House in April 2016). Finally, we're often designing new farms, green roofs, and growing spaces, whether to operate ourselves, or for clients from businesses, residential developments, or institutions. You can check out a portfolio of our design/build work here.
Why Urban Farming?
The city will always rely on rural farmers for the bulk of our food, and the relationship between urban and rural communities must be respected and celebrated. But having farms inside the city limits which take advantage of unused roof space is an opportunity not to be missed. Rooftop farms have the potential to improve urban ecology, enhance quality of life, create jobs, increase access to healthy fresh foods, and provide environmental and agricultural education to those of us who live in and love the city.
Does Brooklyn Grange grow mushrooms?
In the summer of 2012, Brooklyn Grange began experimenting with oyster mushroom cultivation in the old Pfizer Factory in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In two defunct pharmaceutical labs, we taught ourselves how to grow gourmet Oyster mushrooms, and then sold the mushrooms for wholesale in Brooklyn and Manhattan through 2013 and 2014. The Oyster mushrooms were grown on a substrate of untreated New Jersey straw, and once the substrate was used up for growing, we composted it to create fresh soil for our vegetable farms. The mushroom farm is no longer operational, but we continue to offer regular mushroom workshops, which you can find on our Events Calendar.
Does Brooklyn Grange build vertical gardens?
Brooklyn Grange partners with Green Guerillas to help their community gardens access vertical growing space. In 2015 we produced these helpful handouts for home and community gardeners.
I’d like to come take pictures of the farm! How do I set that up?
To set up a journalistic media visit, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and for a commercial shoot, please email Events at Events@BrooklynGrangeFarm.com. Please feel free to take pictures for your own personal use during any of our visiting days, or on a tour, and feel free to tag us on social @BrooklynGrange, #brooklyngrange and geotag our locations! But please be aware that any Media created on premises may not be use for promotional, commercial, or editorial purposes without the written permission of Brooklyn Grange LLC, nor may any Media created on premises be given, licensed, or otherwise transferred to any third party without the written permission of Brooklyn Grange LLC. If you have an opportunity to use your Media for promotional, commercial, or editorial purposes, please contact us as we are generally supportive once we have reviewed the proposed use, but please do not do so without touching base.