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Six Stories Above Queens, a Fine Spot for a Little Farming

queensSoil mix was hoisted on Thursday to a 40,000-square-foot roof where tomatoes, peppers and greens will soon be growing in Long Island City, Queens. Photo by Nicole Bengiveno.

Brooklyn Grange starts their farm

By Diane Cardwell
New York Times
May 13, 2010


The stretch of Northern Boulevard near 36th Street in Long Island City, Queens, is about as far from bucolic as it gets: Old industrial buildings loom, traffic whizzes by, car dealerships line the street. Off in the distance, Manhattan’s skyscrapers glitter, the trains rumble, and the closest thing to a meadow is a small patch of plants the Parks Department has named Triangle 37.

But six stories up, on the roof of one of those old buildings, an ambitious farm began to take shape on Thursday. Called Brooklyn Grange — the group behind it settled on the name before they settled on their borough — it will grow tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and leafy greens amid the air-conditioning units and water tower perched on the 40,000-square foot-roof.

hoistPhoto by Nicole Bengiveno.

Rooftop farms have been appearing recently across New York and the nation, but few have the scope of Brooklyn Grange, a for-profit venture started by Ben Flanner, a transplanted Wisconsinite, and the operators of Roberta’s, a popular restaurant that has become something of a farm-to-table clubhouse in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

The group plans to sell its vegetables — selected for their ability to thrive in the sunny, windy conditions of an open city roof — from a stand at the farm, and to a few restaurants.

But any garden is only as good as its dirt — in this case, almost a million pounds of Rooflite Intensive, an engineered soil mix that contains no actual soil. All day, a crane hoisted bag after enormous bag of the medium, each weighing more than a ton, up from the street at 37-18 Northern Boulevard.

See the rest of the story here.