Several years ago, three friends who’d met during their days at DC’s Woodrow Wilson High School returned with the goal of giving back to the city they called home. A rooftop farm in Upstate New York had inspired them: In 2014, Kristof Grina, Kathleen O’Keefe and Jeff Prost-Greene founded Up Top Acres to grow commercial produce on roofs in the DC metro area.
“Our mission is to establish agriculture as part of city life,” says O’Keefe. “We want to expose people to an understanding of what they eat.”
Since its 1,000-square-foot pilot farm sprouted above Oyamel restaurant in Penn Quarter, Up Top Acres has added rooftop farms in downtown Bethesda (10,000 square feet), DC’s Navy Yard (25,000 square feet) and at 55 M Street, a 15,000-square-foot space overlooking Nationals Stadium. With the help of a farm manager, the company now supplies produce to numerous DC restaurants including Equinox, The Oval Room, Jaleo, Comet Ping Pong and Little Red Fox—and to consumers through a community supported agriculture (CSA) program that allots members a weekly share of fresh crops.
The 55 M Street farm also boasts space for al fresco events, from yoga classes to panel discussions to pop-up dinners by local chefs. “We want as many people as possible to see the roofs,” O’Keefe explains. “We’re also doing educational programming in DC public schools, bringing students up to the rooftops to work.”
The 20-something founders of Up Top Acres are happy to be part of the city’s push for sustainability. “There’s a big effort towards building green infrastructure in DC,” O’Keefe says. “We are among the leaders nationally in a lot of areas.” For more information, visit uptopacres.com.