Monday, April 12, 2010

Rais(ing vegetables on) the roof

Yesterday, as part of a Crop Mob, I spent four hours doing some work at Eagle St. Rooftop Farm in Greenpoint. It's exactly what it sounds like — a farm on the roof of a warehouse in an industrial corner of Brooklyn, right on the East River. The soil is 4–7" deep up there and they're growing pretty much everything, plus introducing chickens and bees in the next few weeks. I used to live about a block and a half away and moved just before they started getting a lot of publicity last summer. I've been paying attention in a vague kind of way since then and was pretty excited to have an opportunity to get up there and see the operation for myself.
There were a lot of volunteers, maybe 25 or so, so we split into small groups and I started off sorting through rubble at an empty lot next door to find whole bricks that they were going to use for something (planters, rumor had it). I didn't have my camera on me at that point, but it felt a bit like being in the opening scene of Law + Order, like we were about to unearth a body at any moment. No one I was working with thought that was funny.
Then we went up to the roof and planted a couple of rows of lettuce. The soil that they use on the roof is mixed with a fair bit of gravel and shale to keep it less dense and, therefore, less heavy, so we brushed the gravel off the surface and made it as level as possible before making the furrows and winnowing in the seeds. Then I went back downstairs and helped assemble trays for the beehives.
I've been having major garden envy lately, since half of the people I follow on twitter and/or whose blogs are read are in a planning/planting frenzy. I loved getting a look at the place and getting some dirt under my nails, and I left kind of in awe of Annie Novak, the farmer. She was doing a million things at once all day — herding volunteers, mixing seeds, teaching people how to do all kinds of things, checking on the people who were working with the compost, being gorgeous and warm and friendly, talking about why she had chosen the particular seeds she had and how she balances the plants that take nitrogen from the soil versus the ones that put it back in, and paying attention to and signing off on every stage of everything that happened. Completely amazing.


Linda said...

Wow! that is so cool! A big piece of garden right in the city.

Anonymous said...

I would have RIGHT THERE with the Law & Order reference. If I lived in NYC instead of WI...