Actually operating the Midwest's largest commercial rooftop farm may yet prove to be the biggest challenge for
Sky High Harvest, LLC
. But in the meantime, founder Dayna Burtness has discovered that finding the right location is a challenge in itself.
"It's not like there's a directory of flat roofs," Burtness says.
Burtness is seeking to turn her four years of organic gardening experience into a for-profit business, raising high-end, interesting vegetables such as heirloom tomatoes, kale, greens and root crops.
But instead of growing food in the country, as she did while a student at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Burtness wants to grow it in the city, close to the market where it will be consumed. And since Minneapolis lacks expanses of available vacant land for farming, she's looking up for a building that could support a farm. Prerequisites include an EPDM surface, at least 10,000 square feet of virgin roof surface, and two access routes up.
That last one is a toughie -- but necessary to meet the fire code if farmers are to be toiling and tilling on top of a building. So Burtness has been scanning Google Earth's aerial images of Minneapolis, looking for the telltale shadows from twin pilot houses indicating two sets of stairs, on a nice, flat roof at least a half-acre in size.
Burtness is in consultation with rooftop farmers in New York City and Chicago and says she feels it's now or never for commercial rooftop farming to take hold here, in part because of the city's current "Homegrown Minneapolis
Source: Dayna Burtness, Sky High Harvest
Writer: Chris Steller