Union Docs Panel- Gardener on the Rood

Erik and myself spoke on Saturday, March 24th at Union Docs at the event “Examining Urban Farming”  asking- what is the future of the farm in the city?
Not so long ago, tomato plants occupying fire escapes and dispersed community garden plots defined what it meant to grown your own food within city limits. Over the last two decades, young farmers and food advocates have brazenly imagined another way. Taking over rooftops and vacant lots, utilizing forgotten, creative and unexpected spaces, the once piecemeal community garden transformed into an urban farm. As the city turns its attention to becoming a greener place, with the adoption of PlaNYC, there is no doubt this group will have a hand in carving out a place for farming in the city’s future.
Today’s panel brings together six people – a documentarian, two farmers, a writer and two planners- that actively expand, rethink and redefine the foodscape of New York City.
Curated with Meg Kelly.

Seeing Green: The Value of Urban Agriculture measures the stormwater management potential of three urban farms; Brooklyn Grange (a rooftop farm), Added Value (raised beds) and the NYC Parks Department’s Five Borough Administrative Building (an experimental green roof station). The aim is to create a model for future research that can be replicated anywhere, to help validate and support urban farms. Seeing Green was co-founded by Tyler Caruso and Erik Facteau.
Annie Novak is founder and director of Growing Chefs, field-to-fork food education program; the Assistant Manager of the Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden at the New York Botanical Gardens, and co-founder and farmer of Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in partnership with Goode Green and Broadway Stages.
Eagle Street Rooftop Farm is a 6,000 square foot green roof organic vegetable farm located atop a warehouse rooftop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.During New York City’s growing season, the farmers at Eagle Street Rooftop Farm supply a community supported agriculture (CSA) program, an onsite farm market, and bicycle fresh produce to area restaurants.

Scott Nyerges is a Brooklyn-based photographer and filmmaker. His video work has been shown at the Tribeca Film Festival, the Rotterdam International Film Festival and the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, while his photography has been featured in Momentum magazine and Architectural Digest’s shopAD blog. Additional work can be seen at scottnyerges.com.

Molly Culver is Farm Manager for bk farmyards. She has been an active urban farmer and food justice advocate in NYC since 2004, and holds a Certificate in Ecological Horticulture from the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. Molly is a Just Food trainer and Farm School NYC teacher, and leads workshops on horticulture, food preservation, and animal husbandry.
The Youth Farm is a partnership of the High School for Public Service and Green Guerillas, with staff support from bk farmyards. We are turning the school’s 1.25 acre lawn into a thriving, productive and educational farm.

Nicola Twilley is author of the blog Edible Geography and co-director of Studio-X, part of the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation’s global network of urban futures think tanks. She is also co-founder of the Foodprint Project and Future Plural, a former Food Editor at GOOD magazine, and a freelance writer and curator with work published in The Atlantic, Volume, Dwell, Business Insider, and Wired UK.

Meg Kelly is current Collaborative Fellow at UnionDocs and Research and Design Assistant at Urban Landscape Lab. Over the last couple of years, she split her time between New York and India. She hails a background in architecture and is always into thinking about the different versions of the future of the city.


SG up on Brooklyn Grange

We’re up and (almost) running on Brooklyn Grange

Last week Erik and myself were able to finish up the build for our monitoring station on Brooklyn Grange. After the success with Kickstarter we joined 3rd Ward- which is a multi-disciplinary workspace and education center. Where they offer classes and have a full Wood Shop, Metal Shop and Co- working Space.

Loading dock at 3rd ward

With the help of Ben and Chase, founders of grange we were able to get this behemoth up the last half flight of stairs and onto the roof.

Erik and myeslf- next to our monitoring spot at grange

The following day (as you can see in the pictures while it was warmer than most February’s that I can remember in NYC the weather was not on our side), we got back to work lining and planting the box.


We cut down the PVC pipe and glued the drain to the piping, then we took this and inserted it into a hole at the bottom of our box- this is where our runoff will leave the system through into a tipping bucket so we can measure it.

Then we lined the box with the exact materials on Grange’s farm- root barrier, an insulating layer, drainage mat and then filter fabric.

cutting down drainage mat

sizing up insulation layer


Once that was down it was time to shovel some of the rooflite growing medium into the box.

It was there we found our hidden winter bounty.

Carrots.Lots of them.


 We were joined by Seeing Green’s intern- Laura Barron.

Here is what Laura has to say about her rainy grey afteroon with us,

As a newcomer to the Seeing Green team, I was more than excited to jump right in to helping set up shop on the Brooklyn Grange rooftop in Queens. As a first semester Environmental Systems Management graduate student, I learned about Seeing Green through Tyler’s visit to my orientation. He mentioned he works with food systems and started describing his non-profits and I immediately knew it was something I wanted to be a part of. Growing up in Texas, sustainability and urban agriculture were largely deemed an elaborate conspiracy theory, so I have been so excited to be in New York City and be exposed to so many innovative sustainable opportunities. Even though it was raining and miserable outside, it was one of the coolest experiences seeing my new team members in action! As someone who has studied environmental studies from a social rather than scientific approach, I was nervous to be such a novice to storm

water management research. We jumped right in to setting up the storm water catchment device, digging a space for in on Brooklyn Grange’s roof and attempting to have caulking dry in 100% humidity. Although I did have to secretly Google “evapotraspiration” once to make sure I knew what it really meant, it was great to hear about the process, as well as being able to take part in constructing and seeing how the storm water catchment device itself was built. I’m looking so forward to learning more about Seeing Green’s process!”

Laura Barron our new intern and Erik

The next step is a grounding wire so our equipment can be recording safely, which we’re hoping to get done in the next week and get online ASAP. More updates to come.

Erik’s First Blog Post

Hey everyone,

Our website is up and running and we’re ready to start blogging.  It’s been awhile since we last wrote and many exciting things have been happening.  Since our kickstarter was such a big success, backed by an amazing 247 of you raising over $13,000, we’ve been hard at work making contacts, constructing and installing monitoring stations, and preparing for our next steps in the spring.

Here are some updates on what’s been happening:

Seeing Green at The NYC Parks Department 5 Boro Green Roof Experimental Station

Shortly after our kickstarter success we made a visit to NYC Parks Dept 5 Boro Green Roof Experimental Station (http://www.nycgovparks.org/greening/sustainable-parks/green-roofs).  Located on top of the NYC Park Departments Administrative Building on Randall’s Island the city has installed 25 different green roof systems covering over 29,000 square feet of the buildings roof.  With 25 different green roof systems on site the 5 boro experimental station most likely has the most different green roof systems side by side in on one roof in the world.  On our tour we were excited to see and learn about a monitoring system currently in place on the roof.  Their monitoring station provides data on local temperature, wind speed, relative humidity, and temperature comparisons between three different green roof systems and the untreated roof.  On top of these numbers the Parks department is able to gauge how well the roof as a whole is managing stormwater by recording the amount of runoff being collected in large containers on a lower roof.

Perhaps the most exciting discovery of our tour though was a rooftop garden setup consisting of 8 rows measuring 50’ long by 6’ wide at 7.5” of depth.  The roof garden consisted of a custom growth medium mix consisting of 1/3 perlite, 1/3 mineral soil, and 1/3 compost/manure.  Over the last two years tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce and other vegetables have been grown in these beds and donated to local food pantry on Randalls Island.  Seeing how the Parks Department was already very interested in comparing different green roof systems and measuring how well they were performing environmentally, a collaboration with Seeing Green made sense.  So after talking to parks about our research it was agreed that we would install one of our research stations and collect data concerning the evaporation rates relating to the rooftop garden plots at the 5 Boro Green Roof Experimental Station.  Construction/Installation has recently commenced and we should be off and running and collecting data within the month.

Seeing Green on its way to becoming a Non Profit

As of January 1st Seeing Green is now fiscally sponsored by The Open Space Institute (http://www.osiny.org/) a 501 (c)(3) or non-profit organization- meaning that we can apply for grants through their organization.  This is great news for us as this allows us to secure funding help through foundations, government organizations, and other sponsors in order to help us bankroll future research projects and get the final equipment we need to set up our initial sites.

Seeing Green on Brooklyn Grange

Next week we begin the installation!  All the equipment is in or on its way and we will begin construction of our demonstration box as soon as next Tuesday.  We are extremely thrilled to be working with Brooklyn Grange and are looking forward to an amazing year of data collection.  Expect a ton of pictures in the coming weeks and status updates as data rolls in.

Seeing Green and You

We would once again like to thank each and everyone that has believed in us through this entire process.  We wouldn’t be where we are now without all the love, advice, encouragement, and support you’ve all provided.  Cheers to you and look out for more updates in the future.

Erik (& Tyler)