I simply wanted to meet the NYC Urban Roof Farmer so I asked him for a coffee and we made a plan. Ben Flanner, roof farmer, showed up with all of his sparkle, intelligence and wit, overflowing with optimism and enthusiasm. It’s nearly spring! He organized the planting of more than 5,000 seedlings a week or so ago. They are germinating inside the Standard Motor Building, which hosts Ben’s one acre roof farm in Long Island City. Now he is battling the 25 mph gusts of wind, building a “hoop house” on the roof for the seedlings to get some needed sunlight but protection from extreme temperatures. Next: Moving pallets of seedlings from the ground floor of the building to the rooftop hoop house. Volunteers are showing up tomorrow at 7:30 a.m. to help out. I must be part of it!
Roof farming, it turns out, is hard work. We carried buckets of water, loaded up the freight elevator with pallets of seedlings, 2x4s, a heater for the hoop house to keep the seedlings comfortable and more buckets, these with contributions to the compost pile. The freight elevator only goes to two floors below the roof, so after loading it all up, it had to be unloaded and hand carried up two more flights. We raked and shoveled dirt to even out the ground in the hoophouse. I was using muscles I probably haven’t even thought about since playing on the jungle gym in kindergarten! My fellow volunteers were Kevin, a musician and roof farming enthusiast, and Katja, an intern at the Brooklyn Grange Farm who is about to graduate from NYU with a self-designed degree . After two hours, I bowed out, leaving the rest of the heavy lifting to the volunteers that are half my age.
I’m not sure what made it so exciting: Being part of Ben’s project and sharing in his unbounded energy and enthusiasm? Working side by side with such talented and interesting people? The uninterrupted and stunning views of midtown Manhattan from this roof?
Being up there for even just a couple of hours created a connection with the future harvest. Ben has three dinners planned during the growing season that will feature produce grown on this unlikely roof farm with the amazing NYC vista. You can bet I’ll be there!
In my last post, I promised you a blog about the roof that warms you up. I will get to it. I just had to share the roof farm with you while I’m running my Epsom salts bath to soothe my aching muscles and planting my packet of tomato seeds 1/4 inch deep in soil, hoping they will germinate in the next week or two.