Something’s growing atop Washington, DC restaurant Oyamel. Seedlings poke young leaves out of four inches of soil. The new green roof, which opened in May, is part of Up Top Acres, a network of rooftop farms.
Up Top Acres, founded by Kathleen O’Keefe, Kristof Grina and Jeffrey Prost-Greene, installs and farms green roofs around the city. They hope to partner with DC restaurants to offer fresh, local produce.
At the same time, their green roofs provide energy savings and stormwater retention for the buildings where they are located, and the farms can be community centers for education and events.
The three young founders are DC natives and friends from high school. They went their separate ways in college, studied urban planning, agriculture and business then came back to Washington, DC.
What’s so great about rooftop farms? “The idea behind it was two-fold: the urban agriculture aspect, but then it’s also that D.C. has this really big issue with stormwater,” says O’Keefe. She describes how the DC sewer system, overburdened with runoff, dumps polluted street water into the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. Farming roofs captures stormwater while also producing food.
Plus, land in DC is expensive and much of the soil is contaminated, so it just “made sense to us to go to the rooftops,” says O’Keefe.