The Eagle Street Rooftop Farm is in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. A farm? On a rooftop? In Greenpoint? That's right. You heard me.
Founder Annie Novak gave us a guided tour of the 6000 square foot growing space and explained the farm's philosophy. Her realism was refreshing. Annie has no illusions that NYC rooftop gardens can feed NYC. Instead she sees her urban farm as an opportunity for education. The farm supports a CSA, supplies several local restaurants with VERY local produce, and partners with Growing Chefs ("food education from field to fork") to bring city-dwellers closer to their food source with a range of educational programs.
Financed by Broadway Stages (the sound stage located beneath the green roof) and designed by Goode Green, the base system is comprised of polyethelene, a drainage mat, and retention and separation fabrics.
They start all their own seeds and grow everything in a mere four inches of mix. No, it ISN'T soil. The growing medium is a combination of compost, rock particulates, and shale; it's lightweight, retains water, and provides good aeration. Annie top-dresses the garden with compost made on site, and rotates the mobile chicken coop to spread chicken manure throughout the garden.
Now in its second year, Annie collects data on what grows best in these unusual circumstances. One of this year's big winners is hot peppers. Tomatoes, salad greens, kale, and chard also perform well. The Biggest Loser: winter squash. (Sorry, winter squash!) She refines her crop choices based on performance and market value.
In addition to a carefully chosen palette of vegetables, Eagle Street harvests honey from three (now legal!) apiaries and includes occasional eggs from its six resident chickens in their CSA shares. There are also some very cute bunnies on site (in cages, where they can't munch freely), which are NOT being raised as meat, I'm told. Mmm...rabbit... I'm just saying.