Posted on 11 September 2009 by

Rooftop Farms in Brooklyn, New York

rooftop-garden1By Vanessa Richins

I once had a very detailed exchange on a forum about urban gardening in New York.

I had been promoting the idea of people growing their own food as one angle to help curb obesity, and explained that I felt that most people could at least participate in some form of urban gardening, whether it was one small pot on a windowsill, joining a community garden, or turning your balcony into a small garden.

She insisted that it couldn’t be done in New York, that there were too many problems.

I tried showing her blogs about people successfully growing produce on rooftops right there in New York City. She worried about the effects of pollution, describing a deformed tomato as evidence (For the record, I found similar photo evidence of a “deformed” tomato with an “appendage” in Emmett, Idaho, which must be out in the middle of nowhere, at least compared to a metropolis like NYC. It just happens sometimes). It’s hard to know the potential effects of pollution and just how possible New York City gardening really is.

I remembered that discussion when I came across a story describing Rooftop Farms, a 6000 sq foot rooftop farm that produces organic vegetables. It’s nestled on top of a Greenpoint warehouse.

Work on the garden began in December 2008. It wasn’t easy – Chris and Lisa Goode, the creators of the farm, hauled up 100 tons of soil onto the roof. It was a variety that is specially crafted to do well in rooftop gardens, since the compost is included. They also produce more compost with local restaurant scraps. 1000 earthworms were recently introduced into the mix to help keep the soil healthy.

So far it sounds like a smashing success. As New York magazine mentions, “The Brooklyn restaurants Marlow & Sons and Anella are already buying the produce; Joseph Leonard and Applewood are interested.” I wish them well and am excited to see this project.

Have you ever kept a rooftop garden?

7 Responses to “Rooftop Farms in Brooklyn, New York”

  1. Fern @ Life on the Balcony Says:

    That lady is silly. If the pollution is that bad in NYC, then it is clearly not safe for her to live there! How could it possibly be too polluted to grow edible plants under any condition but perfectly safe for people to live there?

  2. Maureen Says:

    I have a Brooklyn garden as well, that I keep in the backyard of the store downstairs now. For a couple years, I kept it on my roof, but the black tar of my “lawn” meant watering 3 times a day in peak heat, and leggy, unproductive tomatoes and tomatillos. And squirrels ate everything the day before it was ripe. It was beautiful to look at, but no good for food production. Rooftop Farms is doing a bangup job with their farm, and seem to be working the constraints of their space very nicely. From my experience, it’s not the airborne pollutants that are the danger: it’s the soil-borne remnants in former industrial neighborhoods that are of concern. In fact, the soil near Rooftop Farms is largely contaminated by one of the largest oil spills in history, so growing a few stories above the icky dirt is a smart move for them.

  3. gary Says:

    If you are growing more food than you need. you may want to
    visit – a site that helps diminish hunger by enabling gardeners to share their garden produce/herbs with neighborhood food pantries.

    The site is free both for the food pantries and the gardeners using it.

    More than 20 food pantries in the NYC (including Brooklyn) area are already registered. Over 910 food pantries nationwide are already on it and more are signing up daily.

    It includes preferred delivery times, driving instructions to the pantry as well as (in many cases) information about store bought items also needed by the pantry (for after the growing season).

    If your community has a food pantry, make sure they register on

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