When I first met Brooklyn Grange’s Ben Flanner, it was at the 2013 Cities Alive Conference in San Francisco. He spoke about rooftop urban agriculture. At the end, I walked up and gave him a hug: He talked about profitability. Urban agriculture and profitability are rarely discussed together in my experience working in local foods in my Farm Bureau day job.
Ben Flanner is making it work. Admittedly, he’s had some help with a hefty grant to outfit a 65,000 sq. ft. roof at the Brooklyn Navy Yard with an urban farm. Today, Brooklyn Grange is in the black and supports 12 fulltime jobs. Urban agritourism—there’s a concept–is an important component of their income stream. Their business model involves multiple business activities including producing 30,000 pounds of vegetables, facility rentals, catering onsite events, school tours, classes, consulting and more.
New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) provided Brooklyn Grange with a $500,000 grant that the company matched. Taking more than an acre of impervious surface out of the stormwater flow has value to the city. Altogether they manage about 1 million gallons of stormwater on-site. “They have helped us sell reasons why property owners should do this to people who don’t know about green infrastructure,” said Margot Walker, Green Infrastructure Division, New York City DEP. The Brooklyn Grange rooftop has a 5’ concrete deck that has tremendous structural capacity. Media on the urban farm is 10-12” deep, she said. Normally, rooftop media half or less that depth.
It was fabulous to see the Brooklyn Navy Yard site for myself and know that I can keep on raving about Ben Flanner and Brooklyn Grange for very good reasons. Plus, the views of Manhattan from that rooftop are spectacular. A very hip Brooklyn cool experience.