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At a glance:Ben Flanner is the Director of Agriculture, President, and co-founder of Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm.
Ben Flanner is the Director of Agriculture, President, and co-founder of Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm. Ben’s early days gardening began at a young age, alongside his mother in their Wisconsin backyard. After earning his BS in Industrial Engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Ben moved to New York City, where he began a promising career in management consulting and financial marketing, notably at E*Trade Financial. But his desire to engage more with community than numbers–and more parts of his body than his brain–drew him to the world of food and farming.
He is widely considered a pioneer for his groundbreaking model, which adapts existing green roof technology to intensively cultivate vegetables, beginning with Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, a pilot project on a 6,000 square foot Brooklyn roof, which Ben co-founded in 2009. A year later, in 2010, Ben and his partners scaled up the model and, in 2010, launched Brooklyn Grange, a commercial-scale urban farming business, eventually expanding to 2.5 acres spanning two roofs. As Director of Agriculture, Ben directs all agricultural endeavors on the farm; as President, he brings his system optimization background to bear, making sure the business remains as fiscally sound as it is ecologically healthy. He has presented his work to audiences including NYU Stern Business School; Central European University; Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA); Slow Money; The World Green Infrastructure Forum in Bogota, Colombia; Barcelona’s Smart City World Expo; MAHA Agriculture Conference in Malaysia; The American Farm School in Thesaloniki, Greece; numerous Northeastern Horticultural Societies, and has been a guest expert on dozens of panels and university classes. He has taught urban agriculture courses in multiple cities in North America, and a course in the Environmental Studies department at New York University (NYU). Ben currently serves on the board of the non-profit Farm School NYC.
When he’s not meeting with soil scientists to develop a better growing mix or tinkering with a fussy irrigation pump, Ben can be found whipping up a batch of his homemade bitters, or lacto-fermenting whatever is in season at his Crown Heights, Brooklyn apartment.
Reclaiming NaturePracticing Agriculture in limited urban and peri-urban spaces has helped create many innovations in the field of small scale agriculture. Ben discusses technical improvements, tools, crops, and their accompanying decisions and analysis.
Using a Farmer's Toolkit to Address Business ChallengesIt is possible to balance budgets without sacrificing your mission! In this lively discussion tailored for any business or non-profit with entrepreneurial spirit, Ben leads audiences through his trials and solutions, exploring key lessons from Brooklyn Grange's unique and profitable success.
Rooftop AgricultureHow has rooftop farming evolved? What is its relationship to the Green Roof industry, both globally and locally? Ben discusses current trends emerging from rooftop agriculture, the attention and energy it has brought to the burgeoning green roof industry. Rooftop farming finally cultivates truly local food with no carbon footprint. Most importantly, he shares stories of tangible benefits to people living in our cities.