You’d never know it was up there.
High above the top floor windows of city apartments, at eye level with the upper levels of a multi-storey car park, a pair of creative urban farmers are quietly planting the first seedlings at Cork Rooftop Farm.
Accessed through an unassuming door off Dalton’s Avenue, the hidden farm is the brainchild of Brian McCarthy and his partner Thayane ‘Thay’ Carlos, who came up with the idea about a month ago.
“My family business is fresh flowers (Central Floral Supplies) and the company used to reside on the ground floor,” Brian told Yay Cork.
“The building belongs to my father and we have easy access so once I got the green light from him and a structural engineer we began to implement our plans.”
With their usual work on hold as we wait out the Covid-19 restrictions, the pair hired an expert to assess the structure of the roof to ensure it was capable of supporting enough soil to grow a steady supply of food.
Now, having received the all-clear, a whopping 20 tonnes of topsoil is being delivered directly to the rooftop and work is underway to transform the space into a fully functioning farm with 12 6X1m raised beds.
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“We have a polytunnel full of seedlings at the moment,” Brian told Yay Cork.
“We plan to grow all the basic vegetables; potatoes, carrots, lettuce, turnips, tomatoes, herbs, peppers, parsnips, broccoli, courgettes, cucumbers, onions, garlic, radishes, peas, beans and about another 40 or 50 varieties.
“We’re pretty much throwing ourselves in at the deep end and seeing what works best for a rooftop environment.”
Brian will be using fish in a trial soil fertilisation system that could be rolled out across the farm and the garden will be a haven for bees, with plenty of bee-friendly flowers growing throughout.
They also plan to experiment with growing food using hydroponics and aquaponics.
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With builder’s providers closed, scrap material donated from a local building site is being used to build eco-friendly beds. The team is also on the lookout for more pallets so send them a DM if you can help.
The only rooftop chickens in Cork will be moving in during the coming weeks too.
“They’re going to have a room with a view.” laughs Brian.
When the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, Brian and Thay will be inviting visitors to check out their little slice of rooftop paradise. The fresh produce grown on the rooftop farm will also be sold to locals – ideal if you live in town and you like your food to have travelled as little as possible.
In the meantime, while the city sleeps during Covid-19 lockdown, rows of seedlings grown from Brown Envelope Seeds are soaking up the spring sunshine inside a cosy polytunnel.