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Rooftop Farming: the Next American Frontier

Say goodbye to chemically-treated produce that has been shipped across the country to your local grocer. Say hello to urban rooftop farming, the next American frontier. A desire for fresh, organic produce and a quest for usable growing space has led urban farmers to rooftops all over the world. There’s room for every kind of grower, from the small community garden to the commercial-scale farm. To explore this eco-friendly trend, we’ll take you on a tour through 7 successful rooftop farms from Brooklyn to Hong Kong, Montreal to Orlando. Bring an appetite and a sense of adventure, because who knows– the next urban farmer might be you…

HK Farm Hong Kong

Far above the busy streets of Hong Kong, HK Farm peacefully produces vegetables, herbs and lettuces using organic disciplines and a strong sense of community. This isn’t just a farm, but a movement– the people behind HK Farm regularly host workshops for locals who wish to do some rooftop farming of their own. HK Farm is also part of a network of farms inside and outside of the Hong Kong city limits, where they share ideas, friendships and even soil. It’s a strong example of how a farm can not only feed a community, but create a community of its own.

HK Farm Hong Kong Gallery

Bell Book and Candle Restaurant Farm

The Bell Book and Candle restaurant in Manhattan doesn’t have to go far to find the produce for its meals. As needed, the chefs of Bell Book and Candle can walk the five-story staircase to their rooftop farm to harvest tomatoes, peppers and lettuces to compliment their entrees. The farm produces enough of a yield to feed its busy restaurant for a full year, despite winter dormancy. The farm is powered by vertical farm technologies that maximize the space by growing “up” instead of “out”. A garden like this brings new meaning to the phrase “farm to table”.

Bell Book and Candle Gallery

Lufa Farms Montreal

Lufa Farms Montreal is the brain child of Mohamed Hage, an entrepreneur whose vision is “a city of rooftop farms”. If all were to go according to that plan, a city could be fully sustainable, feeding itself from produce grown on its peaks. Lufa Farms isn’t a small, low-tech operation, it’s a full scale commercial farm that grows 25 varieties of produce that is distributed to a collection of local markets. Hage’s model skips the packing plant and the warehouse and the gallons of fuel that it takes to travel these distances, and instead– it goes directly to the hungry local public.

Lufa Farms Gallery

Community Growers Milwaukee

Large and commercial works great in some communities, while small and communal works just as well in others. The Community Growers garden in Milwaukee invites the locals to share this roof space to grow their own vegetables. If you’re in a small town or a mid-sized city, the roof space can be open to community growing. It benefits more than just the participants who grow food there, it helps decrease heating/cooling costs like a “traditional” green roof would.

Community Growers Milwaukee Gallery

Gotham Greens Commercial Farm

Like Lufa Farms above, the Gotham Greens Farm proves that commercial farming can be successful on rooftop real estate. This massive New York farm produces a large variety of leafy greens, thousands of pounds per week. Gotham Greens employs a hydroponic system called nutrient film technique that slowly feeds its greens with a nutrient-rich solution for fast, healthy growing. There is little waste, and the system uses only a fraction of the water that traditional soil growing requires. In total, it’s an amazing farm that feeds its local population with the freshest, finest lettuces and herbs.

Gotham Greens Gallery


Brooklyn Grange Farm

Growing the traditional way is just as welcome for rooftop farmers, as proven by one of New York’s earliest rooftop farms. The Brooklyn Grange Farm brings organic soil ideals to the rooftop growing movement, yielding amazing earthy produce for visitors and shoppers alike. Like the HK Farm above, Brooklyn Grange isn’t just a farm, it’s a movement. Brooklyn Grange began in Long Island City but now boasts a second rooftop farm in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. This growing operation is bringing fresh, organically-grown food to a wider audience every year. It’s an exciting movement that has inspired this trend profoundly.

Brooklyn Grange Farm Gallery

Green Sky Growers

Not only is Green Sky Growers a rooftop farm, but it may be one of the most technically advanced farms in the world. We visited Green Sky Growers this summer to tour their facility where they grow produce and fish in concert. Green Sky Growers is an aquaponic farm, a combination of hydroponic vegetable farming and aquaculture fish farming. The fish waste, high in ammonia, naturally transforms into nitrates which feeds the vegetables. The vegetables filter the water so that when it returns to the fish, it is clean and healthy to be reused. The whole system raises tomatoes, lettuces, peppers, squash, herbs and more as well as perch, bass and tilapia. It is one of the most amazing examples of fusion between nature and technology, where the farmers create a living ecosystem, not just plants and fish.

Green Sky Growers Gallery

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Do you think your local rooftop farm is worth being included in this list? Be sure to share it with us in the comments or shoot us a tweet @thecoolist. The rooftop farming movement is one of the most exciting trends in sustainability today, and we’re always eager to learn more. Thanks for reading!