By Bill Parry

Astoria’s first rooftop farm is planning a grand re-opening Monday from 6 p.m. to 9 after to mark its relocation after four years in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

Boswyck Farms is very different than the more established Brooklyn Grange rooftop farm in Long Island City because it uses hydroponic growing systems instead of soil.

“When I first started in hydroponics seven years ago, everyone was suspicious of it,” Boswyck founder Lee Mandell said. “Now everyone embraces it because you can farm in any kind of space. It’s the perfect system, far more conducive for the urban farmer, because space is such a premium. You get two to three times the production in a square foot of space using hydroponics as opposed to traditional soil farming.”

Vegetables, such as lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, okra and beans, are grown in nutrient-enriched water. The farm’s new location is at 38-01 23rd Ave. with 1,000-square-foot of outdoor space on the roof with an additional 2,300 square feet indoors for year-round growing under the lights. Mandell calls it a research and development facility.

“We are a research and educational farm teaching people how to grow their own food,” Mandell said. “We also act as contractors designing systems and then training people how to use it.”

The produce that is grown is used for marketing the farm’s systems and services while the rest is given to food pantries and its new neighbors.

Boswyck Farms offers an intensive 35-hour course for Hydroponic Certification for $2,000 as well as workshops for farming hobbyists. Mandell plans to offer after-school programs beginning next year.

Boswyck is open to the public between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Mondays and noon to 4 on Fridays. “Fridays are our volunteer days with positions available in design and construction, crop management and event support,” Mandell said.

When he started farming in Brooklyn four years ago, Mandell named it Boswyck after the original Dutch settlement, which he does not plan on changing.

“I really liked Brooklyn but we outgrew our space, plus it became very expensive,” he said. “After an exhaustive search we almost gave up and moved to New Jersey, and we didn’t want to do that.”

That’s when fate intervened.

“One of my workers had a missed phone call and didn’t recognize the phone number, so she googled it,” Mandell said. “It turned out to be a real estate company and that led us to this place, can you imagine? What are the chances of that happening?”

Mandell moved his farm and his residence into the same building, saying that a farmer should always live on his farm.

“We’ve been welcomed into Astoria with open arms,” he said. “Borough pride is a very real thing here in Queens. The people seem to like the idea that Brooklyn’s loss was their gain.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr‌y@cng‌local.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.



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