A lot has changed since Broadway Stages decided to “green” the roof of their sound stage at 44 Eagle Street. The owners were in talks with Goode Green when they approached by Annie Novak and Ben Flanner to do something a little bit more than just a green roof. This is how Eagle Street Rooftop Farm was born in 2009. Since then, Broadway Stages has also gone on to create Kingsland Wildflowers while Annie had shepherded the 6,000-square-foot rooftop farm through multiple changes.
Chicago-native Annie didn’t know this is where she’d end up. Upon graduating college, she originally wanted to enter the Peace Corps and work on cacao agriculture in West Africa. Instead, she found herself with an internship at the New York Botanical Garden. She helped oversee the two-acre Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden and is now the manager of their Edible Academy in addition to her role here.
It’s very important to note the Eagle Street Rooftop Farm is first and foremost a green roof. Since its primary functions are a little different than other rooftop farms, Annie has to mold its offerings to fit its mission. For instance, a lot of rooftop farms grow very precious vegetables and micro greens to sell to restaurants, and in the beginning, Eagle Street did too. But it just wasn’t working out in their hot and dry rooftop environment. Instead, Annie pivoted the farm’s crops to what would grow better.
This is the first full season where the rooftop is primarily filled with calendula and peppers. Most calendula flowers are grown in California and shipped here dried, so when a Red Hook, Brooklyn soap-making company found that Annie could provide them with fresh flowers, they were sold. The peppers are made into Eagle St’s own hot sauce. Chiles are one of Annie’s favorite things. She feels “chiles don’t get their credit.” The ones you get in the store aren’t picked ripe, they’ve missed their “finishing” period where the capsaicin and vitamin C are fully realized. When you get a pepper that’s been allowed to ripen on the vine, it’s got a sweetness to it from the vitamin C and it can express a real terroir. Additionally, there’s a lot of variety when it comes to peppers so you can constantly be exploring their flavors. The farm’s hot sauce is made locally—Egg in Williamsburg allows the farm to use their kitchen—and is available to buy during market days.
The farm is growing a few small rows of other things, including special pizza herbs for Archestratus (160 Huron St). The last Sunday of the month during growing season is a big one for Eagle Street Rooftop. Not only is it market and volunteer day (the only time the public can visit without an appointment), it’s also Roof to Plate Pizza Night at Archestratus where you can make your pizza with herbs harvested that morning. Those interested in rooftop gardening can peruse Annie’s book The Rooftop Growing Guide: How to Transform Your Roof Into a Garden or Farm while at the shop. If you already have dinner plans, you should definitely stop by the farm this Sunday during the afternoon to either volunteer or pick up some hot sauce and peppers.
Eagle Street Rooftop Farm is located atop 44 Eagle Street. Market and volunteer days are from 1 pm – 4 pm, the last Sunday of the month during growing season (7.30 & 9.24).