Five Of Brooklyn's Most Innovative Urban Farms
It may be a cliché to lament the loss of farms in New York City.
These five Brooklyn-based urban farms, mostly co-founded by former Wall Street professionals, are using the most creative and entrepreneurial techniques, from aquaponics to vertical growing, to bring fresh, locally grown produce to New Yorkers.
Beyond the health benefits of eating fresher produce, locally grown food benefits the environment by cutting out the need to transport and preserve perishable fruits and vegetables, which can take more than a week to get from the farm to a New York City dinner plate.
Location: 810 Humboldt St., Greenpoint
Co-founded in 2009 by a sustainable development manager and an ex-JP Morgan Chase private equity fund manager, Gotham Greens produces organic leafy greens, lettuces and tomatoes from the tops of buildings in Greenpoint and Gowanus as well as in Hollis, Queens.
Early in the business, partners Viraj Puri and Eric Haley developed a relationship with Whole Foods to distribute their produce. In 2013, Gotham Greens built a 20K SF greenhouse on the roof of the Whole Foods store in Gowanus. The project marked the first time a greenhouse integrated with a major grocery store.
The first Gotham Greens greenhouse, built in 2009 in Greenpoint, is 15K SF and produces 100,000 pounds of produce a year.
Red Hook Community Farm
Location: 560 Columbia St. and 30 Wolcott St., Red Hook
Managed by environmental educator Saara Nafici, Red Hook Community Farm produces more than 20,000 pounds of produce a year from two Brooklyn sites.
The 120K SF farm on Columbia Street uses ground compost two-feet deep to create a diverse environment of microorganisms and insects that nourish the produce. Red Hook Community Farm also built a 48K SF site on Wolcott Street in collaboration with the New York Housing Authority. Members of Green City Force, an AmeriCorps program, maintain the farm.
The organization maintains a Saturday farmers market at the Columbia Street site between June and November to sell the farm's produce.
Eagle Street Rooftop Farm
Location: 44 Eagle St., Greenpoint
Managed by educator and journalist Annie Novak, the Eagle Street Rooftop Farm occupies 6K SF on top of a warehouse in Greenpoint. The farm grows a wide variety of vegetables, spices and greens, including hot peppers, eggplants, sage, parsley, cilantro and dill.
Novak sells produce from the farm at an on-site Sunday farmers market.
Location: McGolrick Park, Greenpoint
Co-founded by former E*Trade Financial consultant Ben Flanner and longtime sustainable food advocate Gwen Schantz, Brooklyn Grange grows over 50,000 pounds of produce per year in over 87K SF on two rooftops, one in Brooklyn and one in Queens.
The Brooklyn Grange education program brings 17,000 New York City youths each season for tours through their farms. The organization is supported by a produce share program in which members subscribe to weekly deliveries of fresh produce.
The farm grows a variety of produce, including from salad greens, mix herbs, eggplants, chard, carrots, peppers and flowers.
Location: 630 Flushing Ave., Sumner Houses
Square Roots operates vertical farms from shipping containers. Specializing in greens and herbs, the indoor growing process allows for year-round growing using 80% less water from traditional outdoor farms.
Like Brooklyn Grange, Square Roots is funded by a food-share program where members can buy in $7, $15 and $35 per week packages. The working collective also has an active, year-round events business.