Earlier this year the five core members of Brooklyn Grange, well known by now as the largest soil rooftop farm in the world, signed a 20-year lease for a 65,000-square-foot rooftop at the Brooklyn Navy Yards. In just two years they outgrew their 40,000-square-foot Queens location, which services a CSA membership, regular farmers’ markets as well as local restaurants like Roberta’s and Paulie Gee’s. Now, with more than two acres of fertile ground as well as chicken coops and a commercial apiary, Brooklyn Grange seems poised to conquer underutilized rooftops all over the city. But back in May, when the Navy Yards location had yet to be greenroofed and growing season was less than a month away, their future seemed uncertain. Could the Queens location do enough business to support their expansion while they struggled to prep the roof and plant the seedlings in time?
As they faced rainy days and a number of delays, no one was sure what might happen. Director and CH contributor Michael Tyburski and Group Theory producers Ben Nabors and Burke Cherrie knew that triumph or fail, it was not only a story worth telling, it was an important moment to document. During his first visit to the Navy Yards in May, Tyburski remembers standing on a completely barren rooftop that needed to be fully functional by the end of the month in order for the business to stay afloat, and wondering whether they were really going to pull it off. But the more he filmed the daily tasks involved in running a farm in the middle of a bustling city, the more he realized that the narrative of the documentary was less about whether or not Brooklyn Grange was going to succeed or fail, but about creating an honest portrait of the urban farmer.