VIDEO: Learn More About the Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm

This sky-high project isn’t just growing great food. It’s helping refugees put down roots, too.

We first wrote about its farmer Ben Flanner five years ago, when he and Annie Novak were raising (food on) the roof at Eagle Street Farm, blazing the trail straight skyward. They’ve come a long way — as evidenced in this time-lapse video of their first seven months at the Grange.

But as we explored in our current pages, that sky-high project isn’t just growing great food. It’s helping refugees put down roots, too.

Thanks to a partnership with the Refugee and Immigrant Fund, transplanted people with farming backgrounds spend Wednesdays planting seeds and practicing English on a farm that feels familiar, albeit with breathtaking skyline views. And the weekly pot-luck lunch uses many fruits of the farm’s labor but is now also redolent with international flavors, from fish powder to surprisingly sour leaves.

Contributor Kyle Ligman, who reported and co-wrote the story, even cooked with one project participant, whom we call Anna. As written in the story:

Anna is also passionate about sharing her Burkinabé culture through cooking and a recent Wednesday afternoon found her flipping oblong balls of cornmeal with a bamboo spoon to make fufu, a side dish for her leaf soup, kanzaga, named for the vegetable traditionally used in the recipe back home. Now that she lives and farms here, Anna has been adding all sorts of different leafy greens to her soup including bok choy and amaranth.

She says not wasting even a leaf is a sign of respect for the food, which she learned at a young age.

“The food could be older than you,” Anna said they tell children in Burkina Faso. Now she passes on recipes — and the underlying respect — to others. It is a melting pot of culture where innovative ideas can come from surprising places, like leaves that would have gone to waste.

Here are photos of Anna transforming the farm’s overgrown kale and mustard leaves, typically sent to the compost pile, into kanzaga: a slow-cooked dish she learned to love back in her native Burkina Faso.

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The dish begins with overgrown kale and mustard leaves…

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…which Anna spikes with chili pepper paste…

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…slow cooked, the way she learned back in Burkina Faso…

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…a taste of home, grown in Brooklyn.

Photo credit: Kyle Ligman

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Gabrielle Langholtz is the former editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan.