Rooftop Revolutionary




Whether she's harvesting peppers for hot sauce and tending chickens at Brooklyn's Eagle Street Farm, planting an edible garden at The MoMA, or teaching young people where their food comes from through Growing Chefs, the youth food education program she founded in 2005, Annie Novak is a lady on the move. Smart, saavy, and charming, she is impossible not to like -- her spirit and enthusiasm for urban agriculture, young farmer education, and edible plants is contagious, and we're so happy that she's agreed to share it here in a seasonal update from the farm.

So today, an introduction, and a tour of the farm.


I farm a 6,000 square foot rooftop on the shoreline of the East River in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The Eagle Street Rooftop Farm is a true New York City mash-up: a greenroof built atop a warehouse that doubles as a television sound stage. Now in our fourth year, we sell to area chefs and host an on-site market for our principal crop: thousands of hot pepper plants. In our arid, full-sun environment, peppers thrive, and we sell ours fresh and bottled as hot sauce. In a city of take-out meals, a bottle of hot sauce is a necessity.

In addition to growing organic food, the Rooftop Farm hosts classes. The educational arm of the farm is an offshoot of Growing Chefs, a group I founded in 2005 as a youth food education program. Our staff aims to teach the entire cycle of food, from field to fork. Working with area schools, we teach math and science through gardening and kitchen chemistry. On the rooftop, kids used to seeing only pigeons meet their first chickens. The students visit our honeybees, and learn about the astonishing 64 bee species that call NYC their home.

A few tools are critical to this work: patience, pruners, and sturdy harvest baskets. In farming we call our carrying baskets "lugs” (as much a verb as it is a noun!). Farming has taught me to value highly the craftsmanship of a well-made object. With the same care we take cultivating our plants, we treasure our tools, which remain handy long after the last tomato has been savored.

Looking forward to seeing you all here again soon.

Until then!

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