Using the term ‘upward bound’ in horticulture traditionally meant gardening on a trellis or some contraption allowing plants to climb. However, todays Millennial’s have put a whole new face on ‘upward bound’ agriculture as we know it. Rooftop agriculture is happening in places where you would least expect it.  I was privileged to take part in a Community of Gardeners Meet Up to tour the rooftop garden at The Farm at 55 M Street, SW. What a great building and what a phenomenal use of rooftop space it is.

The cool temps but more than enough sun will ensure these seedling s great start.

Imagine – seeing Nationals Stadium, The Washington Monument, and the Cityscape amidst rows of kale seedlings, onion bulbs and carrot tops. It was truly an amazing site to see.  Agriculture this close to heaven can only be successful and the Owners/Farmers at UP TOP ACRES are proving this in so many ways.

Welcome sign upon entering the rooftop farm at UP TOP ACRES.


Kristof Grina, Host of our tour of Up Top Acres

Our host and guide for the afternoon was Kristof Grina. Nothing like a young person with a vision. Realizing that space on the ground might make things a bit tricky for farming in the City, Kristof and a few of his High School peers decided to think in an upward bound manner.  Not trellises but rooftops…utilizing underused spaces….like commercial building roof tops. What a novel idea, but not unheard of in other cities. After a bit of research and utilizing models of upward bound or rooftop farming in similar settings, Up Top Acres was born. This unassuming young man shared how he and his friends  Kathleen O’Keefe, Jeff Prost-Greene, and Nick Berini, got started with this upward bound adventure.

Young tender seedlings that will become locally sourced food…

Kristof is fascinated with the concept of growing in non-traditional environments. An out of the box thought of farming in a City environment, utilizing space on top of office buildings and convincing developers to buy into this concept was the beginning of Up Top Acres. Did I mention that while feeding people is the part of the concept, a CSA has evolved from this? Did I share 90% of the produce goes to local restaurants? How AWESOME  is this??? What do you expect from a person who studied Plant and Soil Science in college.

Imagine this view as you garden???

The Washington Monument from a fresh perspective …so to speak…

Almost unfathomable but it’s happening right above our heads. This is quite an undertaking from Young City Innovators that want to make a difference in how we source our food. Here are a few fun facts:

  • In order to weed or plant the rooftop beds, the Farmer/gardener must be tied off and secured in the event of a mishap.
  • Up Top Acres employs 1 Full Time Farmer
  • There is a weight and drainage threshold
  • Up Top Acres worked with the University of Maryland to create a unique soil mixture for growing on roof tops
  • never boring, crop rotations vary  from building to building
  • has three farms currently producing produce and is growing
  • offers rooftop event rental  at The Farm at 55 M Street, S.W., for corporate outings, receptions or that unique special event with a City line view
  • is the home to two beehives
  • offers a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) to clients in the buildings
  • provides locally upward bound produce to select restaurants in a 5+/- mile radius
  • uses Veterans Compost for healthy soil…encouraging healthy, well fed plants

Those are just a few of the unique facts that make Up Top Acres  an asset to the community. As local developers plant more concrete buildings, the opportunities to enhance sustainability efforts by including rooftop farms should not be ignored. Think about the tax credits – as well as building a more cohesive surrounding community. The health benefits to potential clients by offering fresh-cut flowers, organic meeting space as well as a communal food option would be unique.

Floating row covers protect young seedlings as it can be 5 degrees warmer than growing on the ground.

As I sat a few weeks ago with Kathleen O’Keefe discussing events that are upcoming like pop up restaurant events, unique hands-on activities, and more it was mesmerizing! I was amazed at the growth that had taken place since my last visit and how healthy the plants were.

Near perfect produce growing Up Top!

Planters that had mere seedlings now had rapidly maturing plants!

Large planters that will surely fill up fast with voluptuous foliage on healthy plants!

Of course every garden has its challenges such as volunteers. Up Top Acres needs volunteers to help with events, to assist when school groups come to visit while sharing the possibilities, as well as funding to keep this idea growing throughout the City.  You can find out more by scheduling a tour with one of the Up Top Acres Team.  It takes a community to encourage a more sustainable stance on the way we get our food and the way we participate in community outreach. Up Top Acres….YOU ARE AWESOME!!!

Click Up Top Acres book a tour or to find out more.

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