“That view behind me is not a painted backdrop!” said Geoff Lawton to the camera. But the view looked great from where I was standing. Brooklyn Grange is a rooftop farm with a magnificent view looking over the Manhattan skyline.
Sitting on a concrete roof, totaling 2.5 acres and producing more than 50,000 pounds of organically-grown vegetables each year, you need to walk its length to appreciate how vast this rooftop garden truly is in scale.
We had been given one hour to film this place. The sun was setting. We were in the “magic hour” to film and needed to hurry. There was a lot to do.
Geoff walked down the narrow lanes of planted vegetables. Four to six inches of dirt was all the plants were allowed to grow in—very well drained dirt that resembled sharp river sand. It didn’t look like a normal loamy soil to my untrained eye.
The whole system looked very well managed with clean straight lines but with a diversity of plants. Lettuce, broccoli, kale, pepper, tomato and flowers—lots of flowers—interspersed with a bee hive along the path. In one corner was a small chicken coop and a few hens. I wasn’t sure the manure from these chickens could sustain this farm? There had to be inputs. But from where?
Geoff explained the system to camera, but then noticed the derelict buildings standing next to us. Pigeons and small birds had made their homes in the abandoned niches. Their droppings over the years had deposited seeds that had taken root and small trees had established themselves, waving to us in the breeze. Geoff Lawton, immediately noticed this and wove it into the story. A wonderful story on the food that could be grown in the city with access to sunlight and water. But also a reminder that Nature is never far from the surface, retaking back what is always hers. If the city did stop beating, how long before Manhattan would be covered in a canopy of forest?
Geoff’s full video of around 10 minutes is worth a look. He has a great insight into why a particular sort of weed was growing in this rooftop soil. Does Nature have a cunning plan up her sleeve?
We finish filming and as I’m packing up the gear, Geoff turns to me and says, “Frank, do you know what that thing over there is?”
I said, “Yes, it’s a wheelbarrow!”
Geoff proceeded to demonstrate.
“Everything in life, should have more than one purpose.” he said, turning it into a chair.