Brooklyn Grange opens its largest rooftop farm to ‘feed the hearts and minds of New York’

Brooklyn Grange welcomes the public to its third and largest rooftop farm in New York City on Sunday. 
Brooklyn Grange welcomes the public to its third and largest rooftop farm in New York City on Sunday.  Photo Credit: Carvel

Atop the Liberty View Industrial Plaza in Sunset Park, lush green farmland is sprouting, plump tomatoes are hanging off vines and carrots are sprouting up from the sky-high growing space.

It’s the first taste of Brooklyn Grange’s third — and largest — New York City rooftop farm location, which is set to open to the public Sunday. The 55,000-square-foot urban agricultural space will soon contribute to the more than 80,000-pounds of organically grown vegetables Brooklyn Grange produces each year in the city.

The team behind the city’s Brooklyn Navy Yard and Long Island City farms is welcoming New Yorkers to their newest space, at 850 Third Ave., for a day filled with live music and family-friendly activities such as farm tours, a farmers’ market, and a composting lesson. The farm’s opening-day celebrations are set for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Gwen Schantz, co-founder of Brooklyn Grange, says she wants members of the community to feel the farm is there for them. Produce from the rooftop green space is sourced to local restaurants and farmers’ markets. Think of it like a community garden, only much larger.

Fresh produce is almost ready to be plucked at Brooklyn Grange's new Sunset Park farm. 
Fresh produce is almost ready to be plucked at Brooklyn Grange’s new Sunset Park farm.  Photo Credit: Emily Mason

“We’re able to feed the hearts and minds of New York and help to spark some great conversations about the environment and about agriculture,” Schantz says on the rooftop. “Most New Yorkers don’t really get a chance to visit farms, so we try to bring the farm to them.”

The new space is Brooklyn Grange’s largest, with 140,000 square feet to work with, and that means more space for growing and hosting public events. In addition to growing space, the rooftop houses a greenhouse — complete with microgreen and hydroponic growing areas. An indoor climate-controlled events hall and kitchen is also planned.

The Sunset Park location will also be home to more of the programming popular at Brooklyn Grange’s other locations. That means more ticketed dinner parties with meals made with the farm’s freshest ingredients, workshops, yoga sessions and private events to help New Yorkers get in touch with nature.

“Urbanites are increasingly alienated from nature, but also from their food production systems," says Anastasia Plakias, the farm’s co-founder. "[S]o much of it takes place behind closed doors and out of sight. We really believe that we have a duty as urban farmers to share our knowledge with our city.”

The new location is made possible in part by a grant from the Department of Environmental Protection, which seems fitting given that Brooklyn Grange’s green rooftops provide a habitat for pollinators (like bees). The farms also have environmental benefits, like a means of managing stormwater to help reduce combined sewage overflow. The farm can help contain and absorb about 175,000 gallons of water during a storm.

To encourage other New York growers to keep up with the best sustainable farming practices, the Department of Sanitation will be giving away compost kits at the open house Sunday to support the use of eco-friendly soil. Brooklyn Grange’s commitment to educating communities also stems from its goal of maximizing its impact, according to Schantz.

“We always knew from day one that even if we grew tons of food — and we really do grow tons of food, it’s like 80,000 pounds of vegetables a year — it’s still just a drop in the bucket compared to what New York City eats,” Schantz says. “We knew that we could increase our impact by making our spaces available and accessible to local people through education, through tours ($18), through open visitors days on Sundays.”

With the goal of education in mind, Brooklyn Grange is partnered with organizations like City Growers, a nonprofit that educates K-12 students through farm-based learning. City Growers hosts events at Brooklyn Grange locations all season and will kick off their programming opening day with kid-friendly activities.

“We’re really excited because Sunset Park is a neighborhood of families and we feel like this is a huge opportunity for our partnership with city growers to flourish even more,” she says.

The farm will host public open houses every Sunday through October and visitors can expect lots of fresh food, flowers and photo-ops.

“Right now is the best time of the year to taste Brooklyn Grange produce. We have super sweet tomatoes, flavorful peppers, beautiful flowers of all shapes and colors,” Plakias says.