Starting a rooftop farm? Read this first

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Idyllic rooftop gardens are all the rage, but it's important to know what you're working with before you start hauling bags of soil up there, lest you end up with a water-damaged roof and a disgruntled landlord.

If you're just looking to add a few potted plants to brighten things up, just about any roof will do. But if you want to start the kind of "commercial-scale" farm that'll yield produce to sell at the farmer's market, you'll need to vet the space firstthe experts at Brooklyn Grange tell WNYC. Some key things to consider: size (you'll want something big to make the investment worth it), sturdiness (check into column spacing and talk to the building manager), easily available water and power supplies, and ideally, a freight elevator. 

Since you'll need to harvest some veggies the night before you take 'em to the Saturday morning farmer's market, it's important to be able to set up a cooler to keep them fresh overnight. And it may be counterintuitive, but industrial neighborhoods near major roads and bridges—Sunset Park and Long Island City, for example—will work best for your urban idyll.

Before you fully transform your building's roof top, you'll want to have a good, long conversation with the landlord or the board. (You knew this was coming, right?) Besides providing key insight into the roof's structure and stability, Brooklyn Grange warns that you'll likely have to pay the landlord rent in order to turn the roof into a money-making farm operation. Similarly, you can also potentially buy unused roof space from a co-op or condo board, though it can be a fraught process. Map out your plans and keep everyone informed well in advance, though, and you can (quite literally) reap the benefits of your roof's untapped potential.


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