Sowing seeds in the sky: Tinyfield ‘Roofhop’ Farm grows community and organic greens

By Kathy Gledhill and Junho Hyun-Sack

This story is part of Kiva’s International Women’s Day Campaign. Through March 8th, we’ll be sharing inspiring stories of women borrowers. You can back a woman entrepreneur today by visiting kiva.org.

What would you do on a rooftop in New York City? Get a tan? Watch fireworks on the 4th of July? Have a beer with friends? Keely, a young female farmer from South Dakota, discovered that New York City’s rooftops are great places to grow the best hops for beer making, along with other organic greens, and also to create community around urban organic farming. Keely’s love of agriculture and city-living led her to create Tinyfield Roofhop Farm, a small-scale, urban farm planted on a rooftop in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.

Tinyfield cultivates a variety of delicious organic greens purchased by local restaurants. The time from farm to table is extremely short, ensuring that greens are fresh and nutritious. Keely’s commitment to organic crops is integral to her farming philosophy. “The thing I like about young farmers is that, the majority of us, when we start farming, being organic is just the norm. It’s just something I promote in my daily life anyway.”

“I’m not going to get rich growing hops. It’s more a way for me to help connect people with the agricultural side of the beer industry. I want to be a place where people can come to connect.”
Photo credit: Miguel Rivas

Rooftop farms are also great environments for growing hops. “Growing hops on a roof is [a] new concept… [so] we decided to try it”, says Keely. She collaborated with a small brewery to concoct a small-batch of “farmhouse IPA” and reflects on the satisfaction of taking the hops from plantation through brewing (and consumption!). “You never really know how it’s going to turn out with a single-hop, single-malt. The thing that was cool about [this batch] was after we took the hops out and they had been boiled, they smelt like juicy fruit gum!”

In addition to growing fresh, organic greens, Keely hosts events and invites members of the community to her rooftop and view where the food they consume is grown. “I’m not going to get rich growing hops. It’s more a way for me to help connect people with the agricultural side of the beer industry. I want to be a place where people can come to connect,” comments Keely. “I want to do more workshops and events. It’s a good way to talk to people about the challenges of farming on a rooftop in the city.” Last year, Tinyfield hosted a variety of events including a homebrewing workshop with an award-winning craft brewer and a yoga/meditation/wellness workshop.

“Kiva was really good for us because it reached a lot of people outside our network. We were able to see people all around the world supporting us.”

In order fund their business startup, Keely and her former business partner Katrina turned to Kiva to obtain a microloan. “The Kiva community has played a big part [in] our business. We got our first financing with Kiva [and] would not have been able to start [this] business without that,” notes Keely (now the sole proprietor). “Kiva was really good for us because it reached a lot of people outside our network. We were able to see people all around the world supporting us.” Keely obtained a $10,000 loan powered by 202 lenders to purchase a greenhouse and help with start up costs. Check out this video to learn about how Tinyfield leveraged Kiva’s character-based lending model to make their dreams a reality .

Check out Tinyfield’s Instagram and Facebook for great photos of their farm, produce and other offerings.

Empower more women entrepreneurs at kiva.org.