Farms in the sky

It looks like a normal organic crop field - but this growing area is 15 metres in the air.

It’s one of many springing up above the streets of New York, as a new generation of farmers looks to put to work spaces that normally go to waste. pictureFarmer Annie Novak turned a 750 square metre factory roof into Eagle Street farm, the first commercial rooftop agricultural venture in North America.

“We’re growing about 20-25 different varieties of fruit and vegetables,“ she says. “We grow everything from carrots, which surprises people because the soil is very shallow, to eggplants and tomatoes, because around the neighbourhood they love them.

“The farm has been commercially operable for two years now. In the first year we experimented a lot with crops, and we were trying to figure out just what plants didn’t die.

“This year we’ve been focusing more on the marketing and we are able to run ourselves as a business because we sell to restaurants, and we have a market and a community-supported agriculture group. We operate the whole year without a single penny of debt.”

But it is not the only farm in the area that is up on the roof. Brooklyn Grange in Queens also transports its products within cycling distance to local restaurants and residents.

And rooftop farms are not only a question of crops. An entire community is growing around the organic philosophy. More and more residents are volunteering for gardening duties, and a network of restaurants is spreading an alternative eating culture.

How’s that for organic thinking?

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