Founders Annie Novak and Ben Flanner at the Rooftop Farm on Eagle Street
200,000 pounds of soil, 1,000 earthworms, and 6,000 square-feet of industrial rooftop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn: not a typical farming setup, mind you, but also a far cry from your average urban garden. But that's what makes Rooftop Farms —the brainchild of former E*Trade marketer (and complete farming novice) Ben Flanner— so extraordinary...
Rooftop Farms began in December 2008 with the help of Chris and Lisa Goode, owners of Goode Greene, a rooftop garden business. (Remember their penthouse garden?) Flanner contacted Goode Green and asked if they'd be interested in partnering with him and his new partner, Annie Novak (an experienced gardener and farmer) to build green-roofs-cum-organic-farms. They readily agreed. Once a building engineer had signed off on the weight-bearing limit, the 200,000 pounds of soil was hoisted to the roof of an old warehouse in Greenpoint. Then, instead of issuing their standard wildflower mixes and drought-tolerant plants, the Goodes allotted that portion of the budget over to Flanner and Novak, who bought vegetable seeds and set up an irrigation system. (The roof has 16 four-foot-wide beds that are irrigated by rain.)
Then the planting began: over 30 kinds of vegetables, including rainbow chard, Freckles lettuce, various salad greens, radishes, corn, herbs, nasturtiums and peppers. Local restaurants such as Marlow & Sons were eager to buy the produce, and the project has drawn plenty of volunteers who want to get their hands dirty.
If you're interested in volunteering at Rooftop Farms, just send them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.