So, on Sunday we went to Rooftop Farms which is a 6000 square foot organic farm on the roof of a warehouse in Greenpoint. It was really jarring being there amongst the rows and rows of vegetables while all the boats on the East River cruised by and the Manhattan skyline framed the whole scene.
I don’t have much experience with farms. When I lived in North Carolina, some of my middle school friends used to work harvesting tobacco. Nowadays I’m guessing they don’t let kids do that, but it was a thing back then. It was really gross work and everything you wore would be permanently stained brown. Also, being around all the tobacco plants would make you puke in the fields sometimes. And while the kids I knew were pretty excited about the money, it couldn’t be that good if middle-schoolers were the only takers. I’m lucky enough to say I never worked in a tobacco field.
In fact, the closest I’ve ever been to a working farm was when I went to a vineyard in France once. Also, I was pretty good at the farm level on Mario Karts. But I’m pretty sure a real farm has fewer gophers that pop out in the middle the dirt road to make your go-kart spin out.
Elizabeth had read about Rooftop Farms on the internet and so on Sunday we decided to walk over and see what it was like. It turned out to be a pretty cool place. Walking up the stairs in the building, it felt like you were visiting a friend’s painting studio, but then when you get out on the roof, there were rows and rows of vegetables many of which I’d never seen when they were alive before. For example, I didn’t realize how much a live cabbage looks like the plant from Little Shop of Horrors.
While we were there, Annie (one of the farmers) was directing a bunch of volunteers. It’s impressive to see farmers at work, because as gardeners we (by which I mean Elizabeth) know how hard-won knowledge about cultivating plants is and how difficult it can be to nurture even a few tomatoes, strawberries, and herbs in the city. But Rooftop Farms had a really wide variety of plants- kale, chard, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, eggplant, peppers, peas, green beans, and a bunch I can’t remember- and they were all thriving. You really have to admire it.
We bought some lettuce and peppers. I wasn’t sure what kind of peppers they were so I took a bite of one to see if we could use it in a Nicoise salad last night. It turns out it was really hot. So I kind of wasted that one, but hopefully I’ll come up with some good use for the rest. We did use the lettuce in the salad and it was fantastic. If you’d asked me a few years ago, I’d have told you that lettuce is just filler or something you need so you can have dressing, but I’ve come around. There are some really tasty lettuces in this world.
Urban agriculture initiatives are taking off in lots of parts of the world as a way to get fresh produce to urban populations that wouldn’t otherwise have access to them. In New York, we have access to plenty of fresh produce, so that’s not much of an issue. However, this Sunday, we walked to a farm and bought produce and not single drop of petroleum was used, so it’s easy to see what the impact projects like Rooftop Farms could have in the future, practiced on a larger scale. If you live in Brooklyn, you should drop by Rooftop Farms and check it out.