It all looks so easy from a distance: More than an acre of New York City rooftop goes from barren to blanketed in green crops in a matter of minutes in a video we reposted recently. The non-time-lapsed story of Brooklyn Grange involves a whole lot more work, however, as the new documentary short Brooklyn Farmer: A Portrait of Urban Farming shows. The film, which has its Los Angeles premiere this week at the Architecture & Design Film Festival, follows the Grange team as it expands its aerial footprint with a second rooftop.
As with their rural farming brethren, things don’t always go so well for these urban agrarians. It's not just the weather that complicates the planting of the new location; there are also the ins and outs and delays of the full-on construction site that presages the bucolic mounded dirt rows full of kale and tomatoes.
“If this farm doesn’t get built and we aren’t making money off of it soon, we actually aren’t going to eat this summer,” says one of the Grange team. And she’s talking about the loss not of local greens but of real income.
Despite the challenges of farming more than two acres in one of the country’s most densely populated cities, it's an approach to agriculture that has its benefits too. “We’re growing vegetables in a totally unique way,” says another Grange farmer, “but we’re also next to 8 million people who can purchase them.”