“Five years ago, there were virtually no rooftop farms,” Steven Peck, founder and president of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, told National Geographic. “Now they are starting to appear across the globe… as fossil fuels become more expensive and the number of urban dwellers continues to rise, urban farming will help feed the population without increasing the cost and pollution of food transport.”
Rooftop farming was born out of the green-roof movement, in which building owners partially or completely cover roofs with vegetation atop special waterproof membranes. Green roofs use plants and flowers to provide insulation, create a habitat for local wildlife, help control runoff, put more oxygen into the atmosphere—and provide a welcome, verdant break from urban drabness.
Rooftop farms take the green-roof concept a step further, with plots that provide fruits and vegetables for local residents and the chance for urban volunteers to become part-time farmers. “There is nothing more rewarding than sitting down at the end of a good day of working with our hands, watching the sun set over a healthy, productive farm, and enjoying some freshly picked vegetables as a team,” said Anastasia Cole Plakias, vice president and founding partner of Brooklyn Grange, the world’s largest rooftop farm.
The grange covers 2.5 acres (one hectare) on two buildings in New York City. More than 50,000 pounds of organically cultivated produce are grown there annually, for sale to local restaurants and at the grange’s own farm stand. Chicken coops and more than 30 beehives round out the urban farming experience.