Our goal is to create a large green roof farm accessible to children of all ages on the Robert Simon Complex in New York City's East Village. We hope this initiative will lead to greater awareness and understanding for our children of the natural world, especially the vital role plants play in our lives.
By fall 2012, students from the Earth School, PS 64, and Tompkins Square Middle School will be planting vegetables and studying the environment on a 2,400-square-foot roof deck with spectacular views of the surrounding neighborhood. Later they will have the opportunity to harvest, prepare, and eat the food they've grown.
This experiment in urban agriculture will be integrated into existing school courses in science and nutrition. Fifth Street Farm will be a living classroom offering effective hands-on education in food awareness and environmental sustainability.
We also hope that both the design of the farm and the curriculum created to utilize this wonderful resource can be used to model green-roof gardening by other schools in New York City and beyond.
About Fifth Street Farm
Fifth Street Farm is a grassroots organization of parents, teachers, and friends working to enhance the learning resources and environment of three New York City public schools. We support a rooftop farm that will foster environmental stewardship as students grow, harvest, eat, and share the bounty of their work.
The Farm Team
Fifth Street Farm is supported by volunteers from the Robert Simon Complex community. It includes parents, school staff, community partners, and legislators dedicated to creating a rooftop farm and providing a living classroom for teaching science, math, and humanities.
It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization independent of the NYC Department of Education. The organization works as the financial arm of Fifth Street Farm and oversees fundraising efforts, operations, and maintenance. It also offers curriculum development in coordination with the three schools served by the farm. Its governance structure includes a board of directors and a steering committee made up of parents and school staff.
THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS: Doug Fountain, Rob Leon, and Michael Arad
In 2007, Abbe Futterman, the science teacher at the Earth School, formed a "green committee" to brainstorm and implement ideas to improve the school's garden, playgrounds, food services, etc. Parents, teachers, and partners like Slow Food and Days of Taste collaborated to repurpose the Earth School's garden into an organic edibles garden and bring chefs to the classroom to introduce new foods and flavors to inner city students. By 2008, the idea of constructing a rooftop garden had been conceived and incubated by the committee.
Michael Arad, an award-winning architect and Earth School parent, designed the prototypes of Fifth Street Farm, and the committee began the arduous process of gaining approval from the NYC School Construction Authority (SCA) and finding funds for the project. Over the next several years, parents and staff from the three schools used their talents and skills in architecture, engineering, horticulture, and curriculum design to create a viable plan for the farm.
Dedicated community leaders and local legislators contributed key financial and legal support, and in late 2011, work began on the farm's infrastructure. Fifth Street Farm is on track to welcome its first class of young farmers when school begins in September 2012.
To accommodate the building's load-bearing ability as well as financial constraints, architect Michael Arad designed a 2,400-square-foot roof deck based on those used to support heavy equipment such as HVAC systems. Stantec Architecture was hired by the SCA to develop that concept with input from Arad’s work group. This raised work bed design can be replicated by other school buildings in NYC.
The initial scope of work includes the construction of a perimeter fence and security and PA systems for safety and raised planting beds for growing herbs, vegetables, and fruit. The next phase of the project will include installation of an irrigation system; the development of low-planted areas to capture storm water and reduce the roof's heat-island effect; sheltered areas where teachers can gather with an average-size class of students; storage for tools; and a dedicated composting station.