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Farm-in-the-Sky Takes Root

Our upstairs neighbors have started harvesting.

In May of this year, EcoStation:NY, a grassroots community organization in Bushwick, Brooklyn, dedicated to food justice and environmental awareness, began the first official growing season of Farm-in-the Sky on the rooftop of Brooklyn Fire Proof East, a few floors up from the KM office. In a neighborhood that’s mostly asphalt and concrete, the farm brings some welcome (and delicious) green.

The farm’s modular growing pods are made primarily from common, low-cost materials, mostly conduit tubing and wooden shipping pallets, and are designed to be easily replicable and lightweight. The one variable that’s unavoidably weighty is dirt: on the first day, volunteers carried 6,000 pounds of soil and 50 pallets up five flights of stairs to the roof. To reduce the roof temperature and reflect light to the plants, they also painted the roof white with the help of NYC °CoolRoofs, a government initiative that donated the paint and organized the volunteers. KM donated garden tools as well as some snacks to keep the volunteers going.

Farm-in-the-Sky’s first crops include microgreens such as radishes, mustards, cress, arugula, and Japanese chrysanthemum, as well as heirloom tomatoes, basil, thyme, sage, and chamomile. (We were fortunate enough to sample some of the greens the other day and were amazed by the vivid flavors packed into those tiny leaves.) Two beehives have also been installed on the roof. A core group of eight volunteers does all the watering and harvesting and also delivers the produce on foot and by bicycle to a few neighborhood restaurants. The vegetables and herbs are also being sold through the Bushwick Farmers’ Market.

The farm is already in the process of expanding; the volunteers just added 12 pallets, bringing the total growing area to 588 square feet. They are experimenting with sub-irrigated planters — containers with a reservoir in the bottom that allow less frequent watering. They’ve also begun vermicomposting on the roof, collecting food scraps produced in the building and feeding them to their sizeable herd of worms, in order to supplement the soil, which can be difficult to come by in the city (especially if one requires large quantities of the inexpensive kind).

All of the money generated at the farm goes toward EcoStation:NY’s educational programming, including the summer youth training and employment program.

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