I was talking with a lovely young woman the other day who is interested in farming here in the city and she said that she had read my blog and liked it! Wow, I didn’t know that anyone read this blog and it was quite exciting. Actually I haven’t been blogging much, just posting updates about where we’re at but now that we’re at our one year mark I feel like it’s time to step back, reflect on the year, and perhaps think of some wise things to say.
Photo taken a first rooftop in W.Philly winter 2011
When people ask how we (Rania and I) got into this ‘rooftop farming’ thing I know that they think we’re are crazy. And we are a little bit. With hundreds of vacant lots around the city and lots of examples of people successfully farming those plots why would we decided to do something so new and so expensive.
To answer that I think you should just go up t o a rooftop in the city sometime. It’s incredible. If you are like me and you grew up in the county the constant pulse and crowded intensity of the city sometimes gets to you. Going up to the roof is like going to a park – you can over see the city and breathe more deeply. Now imagine if you could have the park on your roof… that’s what Rania and I have in mind. Only instead of just grass and trees we’ll have fruits and vegetables to sell and loads of educational programs. Phil Forsythe, who runs the Philadelphia Orchard Project here in Philly, spoke about the importance of growing up (on rooftops!) at a permaculture worship at PASA (Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture). So, we’re not alone and I’m so excited about the shout out!
Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm, Queens, NY
When I first looked into this rooftop farming thing it seemed overwhelming, if even possible. But the more I researched the more I learned about farms like Eagle St. Farm & the Brooklyn Grange in NYC. I also learned about educational roof gardens in Chicago and Hawaii. It was reassuring that we weren’t the first people to come up with this idea and that there are examples of rooftop farms that are growing food to feed their city and educating people about alternative city growing methods.
Early last year we got started fundraising for this project as well as meeting with PROOF (Philadelphia Rooftop Farm ) to raise some money and get some ideas.
We had a great West Philly party with food, a band, and lots of friends. We also ran a Kickstarter campaign where we raised over $5,000. Now, one year later, we have finally sent out all the rewards to people so look out for people wearing and carrying flashy ‘Cloud 9 Rooftop Farm’ t-shirts and tote bags. They have been send out throughout the country and the world – even as far as New Zealand.
We soon learned that some rooftops are NOT structurally sound enough for a rooftop farm so we had to move away from our West Philadelphia site and choose a wonderful location in NW Philly at the SHARE food distribution center. It’s conveniently located right below the TastyCakes factory and the rooftop is a full two acres!
We will be beginning this spring with an 1/8 of an acre garden on the strongest section of the roof. A grant through PHS Growers Alliance will make this initial stage an option and we are using many reusable and donated products from reliable green-roof and Philly based companies.
SHARE Food Distribution Center, NW Philly
Thank you SHARE for allowing us to create our dreams at your site. To me there is a perfect pairing of missions between SHARE, Nice Roots Farm, and Cloud 9 and an opportunity to create a NW hub for food distribution and farm education. Working as a farm educator at W.B. Saul High School in Roxbourough, as well as running farmers markets in Strawberry Mansion and Hunting Park, I belief I have a basic connection with the NW Philly community and am excited to expand upon that. I am looking forward to working more with local schools and Philly U, as well as with Hunting Park and East Falls community members.
There are so many people to thank for help and support. All the friends, family, and the lawyers, roofters, folk who are donating supplies, seeds, ect. While it has meant many hours of me furiously plugging away at the email and three million meetings it has been worth it. Sleep is over-rated anyways.! So is free time.
Silk Screening at RECLAIM studio in W. Philly
I have been think a lot about how lucky I am to be able to follow my dreams. I am so privileged to be able to choose the work I want to do and to be able to spend the amount of time (unpaid) it requires to set something like Cloud 9 up. There are many people in our city, our country, our world who are not allowed such privilege and I hope to use mine wisely. Rania and I are committed to making our farm accessible to the communities around us, both through education and with produce, and to making our program sustainable. Sustainable for the earth, for our community, and for ourselves. Throughout this past year I have found that without self-care nothing is possible and that space increases productivity and joyfulness.
So HAPPY BIRTHDAY CLOUD 9. May you bring happiness and joy to those who engage with you. May you foster community growth and healthy living through good eating. Thank you for being with us this year and we can’t wait to see what this season brings!