Volunteering on a Rooftop Farm

This summer I am doing an internship in NYC. My sister was kind enough to let me stay with her family in Harlem until my work here ends in early August. As part of my NYC summer experience, I decided to volunteer on an organic rooftop farm in Queens, NY.

The farm is called Brooklyn Grange and is currently operating out of three locations; two in Brooklyn and one in Queens. All three farms are on rooftops and vary in size and capacity. Most of the farm’s sales are to restaurants and other third-party distributers. The rest of the crops are sold directly to consumers in mini-markets that are set up on the rooftop farms.

Aside from growing great food, Brooklyn Grange also offers beautiful spaces for events such as weddings and graduation parties. They also offer yoga classes and a number of community enrichment programs.

The Work

When I arrived Saturday morning to volunteer, I was treated very well and was immediately introduced to the farm’s volunteer coordinator. He gave me a quick tour of the farm and then put me top work. I spent most of the day pulling weeds, but I also got to harvest (and eat) some strawberries.

While weeding, I was told not to pull out the clover plants because the farm uses the clover as a cover crop to help maintain healthy soil and attract desirable insects.

All of the weeds we pulled were placed in a large compost pile. Almost all the compost needed for the farm is produced on site in this manner. I was told that it takes about 3 months start to finish for biomaterials to be fully composted.

Throughout the day, more and more volunteers showed up ready to get their hands dirty. I was pleasantly surprised to meet quite a few fellow vegans and vegetarians. All the volunteers were a pleasure to work with and It was very exciting to see people giving their time and energy to support such an important cause. The employees at the farm also seemed very fulfilled by the work they were doing. I think it really says something about the organic farm industry when you have people will show up to work without pay.

After working about a 6-hour shift, I purchased a bottle of hot sauce that was recommended by the volunteer coordinator and said goodbye to my new friends.

My plan is to volunteer every Saturday until I finish my internship. Each time I visit the farm, I will try to learn something new, and I will be sure to share that knowledge with whoever wants to listen.

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