Things have a way of going full-circle in life. When I was 22 years old, my first real job out of UCLA was teaching English to high school seniors in Paso Robles, California. Years later, when I was running a medical transcription service, I was asked to teach a class on that topic at a San Diego community college. Now I live in New York City, and this Saturday I will be returning to the classroom, albeit for a short stint, to share some of what I’ve learned about urban roof gardening.
The facts: The class is called Starting a Rooftop Orchard in the City. It’s happening at The Brooklyn Brainery (515 Court Street, Brooklyn) from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, February 25 and the cost is $20.
Best of all, I’m co-teaching with Mike Biltonen, VP of Farming Operations at Red Jacket Orchards in Geneva, NY. Mike knows sooooooooo much about growing fruit and has this spectacular idea to plant an urban roof orchard. Not 5 or 10 little trees on a rooftop (although that is very cool and he’ll be talking about that in the class), but an ORCHARD with 100-200 trees that will produce lots of delicious, rooftop-grown-in-NYC fruit. This is still in the idea stage – we’re hunting for a roof big and strong enough to hold that kind of weight, and my guess is there will be a lot of expense getting that many container trees planted and irrigated. Mike will be the “pro bono” tree expert, helping to solve any problems that pop up in the rooftop orchard so the roof orchard’s likelihood of success is incredibly high.
Other than Eli Zabar’s 80 or so fig trees growing in his rooftop greenhouses atop the Vinegar Factory on the Upper East Side (see my $10 Tomato blog post), I don’t think anyone else is growing fruit trees on NYC rooftops in this quantity. Unless I’ve missed something really big, this would be the first and only outdoor rooftop orchard in New York City. Very exciting!
How did Mike get to be so smart? He is a Certified Crop Consultant. He is trained and certified in numerous sustainability and food safety standards from around the world. Mike has a BS degree in Horticulture from Virginia Tech and a MS in Pomology from Cornell. Plus he’s been working in the fruit “field” for decades. This guy knows his apples – and cherries, pears and peaches too!
Not sure how many seats are left in this Saturday’s class, but if you want to learn about growing rooftop fruit in the City, you can look online to see if there is room for you. Sign up at http://brooklynbrainery.com/courses/starting-a-rooftop-orchard-in-the-city. And fear not, I’ll keep you posted on how the Roof Orchard Project progresses.