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Brooklyn to host nation's largest rooftop garden

Brooklyn to host nation's largest rooftop garden

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Support for projects like these adds momentum for the growing locavore movement.

A Brooklyn Navy Yard warehouse will soon serve as a host to the nation's largest rooftop garden. (Photo courtesy of BrightFarms)

A tree grows in Brooklyn, and if Paul Lightfoot has anything to do with it, so will your vegetables.

"New York City deserves better produce than the road weary lettuces and tomatoes that are trucked in thousands of miles," said Lightfoot, CEO of BrightFarms, in a Saturday e-mail to SmartPlanet.

BrightFarms will soon be opening the nation's largest rooftop garden on top of an old Navy warehouse in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. When it opens in the first quarter of 2013, the 100,000 sq. ft. garden is expected to yield one million pounds of hydroponically-grown produce annually, including tomatoes, lettuces, and herbs.

New York City consumers have been supportive of urban agriculture for years. In 2010, Brooklyn Grange opened a rooftop garden in Long Island City, Queens, with the help of a successful Kickstarter campaign. Lightfoot said that public support for projects like these is indicative of a growing locavore movement:

"After decades of centralization and industrialization in the food supply chain, Americans wants to know –- and have a right to know –- where their food comes from. The demand for local food is the most powerful trend in the food industry and will strengthen for decades."

The success of this trend is evident in New York's culinary scene. According to Yelp, an online restaurant rating site, the New York area plays host to 47 farm-to-table restaurants.

In addition to support from residents, the new rooftop project found support among local leaders. Brooklyn President Marty Markowitz, NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Congressman Nadler and Congresswoman Velassquez, and the Bloomberg administration assisted in bringing the project to fruition.

The rooftop project -- which brought together consumers, business owners, and political leaders -- provides an example for other municipalities, said Lightfoot:

"This project is a model for other cities: a public-private partnership that bring jobs, economic activity and fresh, healthy and local food to a community demanding fresh, healthy and local food."

A rendering of the new site. (Image courtesy of BrightFarms)

[New York Times]

To learn more about BrightFarms, read David Worthington's Nov. 2011 article, "Rooftop local produce, coming soon to a supermarket near you," for SmartPlanet.

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Claire Lambrecht

Contributing Writer

Claire Lambrecht has written for the New York Times, Slate, Salon, The Nation, and CBS MoneyWatch. Previously, she taught English as a Teach for America Corps Member and Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. She holds degrees from Cornell University, the University of Hawaii, and the Arthur M. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure