What does it take to farm in the middle of New York City? Ben Flanner co-founded Brooklyn Grange with the idea that farming could still happen in major urban centers. So they set out to solve this problem and bring agriculture into the city. They found a few warehouses in Brooklyn and Queens and started farms on their rooftops. This journey was one without a roadmap. No one else could show them the way, but they decided to press forward and pioneer a new way to farm. Their farms are impacting the local community in many ways including reducing rain water runoff, brining organic foods right to the doorsteps of local restaurants and farmers markets, and creating community around innovative solutions. In today's episode we also bring in questions from our listeners. Thanks Rebecca, Jackson, and Phoebe for joining the conversation! Topics we discuss in the interview include: sustainable farming, urban farming, solving complex problems, and much more.
More about Ben and Brooklyn Grange
Ben Flanner is a co-founder and CEO of Brooklyn Grange, based in New York City. A pioneering urban farm operation, the business farms rooftops, designs and builds green spaces, and promotes sustainable living and local ecology through food, education, and events. The business includes over 3 acres of intensive green roofs, and sells its produce via restaurants, farmer’s markets, and CSAs. Brooklyn Grange is widely recognized as a world leader in urban agriculture, with an unwavering drive to develop the concept with an exceptional green and community minded business.
Ben’s experience gardening began at a young age, alongside his mother in their Wisconsin backyard. After earning his BS in Industrial Engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Ben moved to New York City, where he began a short career in management consulting, and then financial marketing, notably at E*Trade Financial. But his desire to engage more with community than numbers–and more parts of his body than his brain–drew him to the world of food and farming.
Ben has presented to audiences including NYU Stern Business School; Central European University; American Farmland Trust, US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA); Slow Money; Barcelona’s Smart City World Expo; MAHA Agriculture Conference in Malaysia; The American Farm School in Thesaloniki, Greece; numerous Northeastern Horticultural Societies, and has been a guest expert on dozens of panels and university classes. He was included in 2016 by the New York City Food Policy Center’s 40 under 40 working to transform New York City’s Food Policies. Ben is a juror on the International Architizer A+ Awards, and he has taught urban agriculture courses in multiple cities in North America, and a course in the Environmental Studies department at New York University (NYU).
When he’s not meeting with soil scientists to develop a better growing mix or tinkering with a fussy irrigation pump, Ben can be found whipping up a batch of his homemade bitters, or lacto-fermenting whatever is in season at his Crown Heights, Brooklyn apartment.