Brooklyn Grange is operated by a team of hard-working people committed to realizing a more sustainable and delicious NYC. Yet who we refer to as The Farmily comprises not just a core group of managing partners but a dedicated network of trainees; investors; landlords; community partners; fellow farmers, and the guy we get coffee from in the morning.  Without the support and hard work of our community, Brooklyn Grange could never achieve the reach and growth we have experienced since opening in the spring of 2010.

Here’s a bit of background on our team!

Ben Flanner of Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm

Ben Flanner, Photo © Randy Duchaine


Head Farmer, President

Ben Flanner is a trained Industrial Engineer with a background in business and marketing. In 2009 Ben co-founded Eagle Street Rooftop Farms, the first rooftop soil farm in New York, and is widely recognized as a leader in rooftop urban agriculture.  He is currently developing sustainable energy technology fueled by friendly, mid-western charm and the elongated “A” in the Wisconsin accent.


Urban Farmer Anastasia Cole Plakias

Anastasia Plakias, Photo © Donnelly Marks




Vice President & Founding Partner
Anastasia is a published writer and veteran of the NYC restaurant industry.  Her passion for food politics is outweighed only by her knowledge of obscure vegetable-related trivia, which she shares on her monthly Heritage Radio Network segment, Anastasia’s Fridge.  A born-and-raised New Yorker, Anastasia is dedicated to making her native city a greener and more sustainable place to live.


Gwen Schantz, Photo: Richard Lord



Chief Operating Officer & Founding Partner
Gwen Schantz is an experienced urban farmer, a long-time sustainable food advocate, and co-founder of the Bushwick Food Cooperative & CSA.  She leads Brooklyn Grange’s Contracting and Installations division, designing and installing green roofs, gardens and other green spaces for clients throughout New York City and beyond. Gwen is passionate about creating more green space in New York City, and solving urban environmental problems through the installation of soil and plants.


Chase Emmons - Brooklyn Grange Urban Farm Beekeeper

Chase Emmons

Managing Partner & Locations Director
Chase Emmons, a serial entrepreneur, has been farming and beekeeping for over a decade. He currently owns and operates C & C Orchards, a chemical-free orchard and apiary in western Massachusetts. An avid runner, we are placing bets on how quickly he can collect a swarm of feral bees.

Matt Jefferson, Photo: Valery Rizzo

Farm Manager, Brooklyn Navy Yard Farm
Project Manager, RIF Urban Farm Recovery Project

Matt Jefferson is an Indianapolis native and stubborn Pacers fan.  After receiving his Masters in Public Health in 2007, he spent two years volunteering with the Peace Corps in Botswana working with an HIV/AIDS awareness project and empowering village youth through agricultural training.  He continues that work through theRefugee Immigrant Fund’s Urban Farm Recovery Project at Brooklyn Grange.  Matt remains the only member of the farm team fast enough to catch a Speckled Sussex hen.


Bradley Fleming

Farm Manager, LIC Flagship Farm
Bradley is a passionate farmer with a deeply rooted commitment to health.  Before joining the Brooklyn Grange team, he turned nine acres of Vermont soil into delicious, organic vegetables.  His breadth of agricultural knowledge and desire to teach others were outweighed only slightly during his hiring process by his perfect driving record.  When he’s not up on the farm staking tomatoes, he can be found listening to 99.5 FM, sipping green juice and studying up on nutrition.


Urban Rooftop Farmer

Alia Ornstein

Assistant Farm Manager, Director of Sales
Alia Ornstein is a former attorney turned dedicated urban farmer.  After five years counseling companies on the finer points of employment law and litigation strategy, Alia tapped her roots as the granddaughter of a Polish farmer and made her way to the soil.  In farming, she’s found a way to truly advocate for a better world, and she brings both a deep commitment to sustainable agriculture and a unique passion for raking out beds.


Melissa Kuzoian

Melissa Kuzoian graduated from Boston University with a degree in finance, in spite of her six-month stint spelunking and bungee jumping across New Zealand.  She splits her time between the farm, where she recruits interns and doggedly chases down every last figure until our books are balanced, and Nonprofit Finance Fund where she analyzes internal financials, prepares reports and incites general office envy over her superlative tan.




Michele Kaufman


Director of Events

A native New Yorker, Michele graduated from Pitzer College, where she majored in Environmental Studies.  While matriculated, Michele fell in love with the wild topography surrounding the town of Claremont, CA, and when 85 acres of nearby native coastal sage scrub landscape was threatened by development, she launched a monthly event series to raise support amongst the community for its preservation.  Since coming on board with Brooklyn Grange in 2012, Michele has developed the farm’s wedding program and produced countless events on the roofs.


Jesse Rosenthal


Project Manager, Design and Installations

Jesse Rosenthal is a transplant from Idaho (by way of Utah) and feels most at home on the rooftops of the city’s “urban mountains” (yes, natives just call them skyscrapers). Combining his construction background and consulting experience, he helps manage the Grange’s Contracting and Installations division, bringing green spaces to clients throughout New York City and beyond. Jesse loves infusing nature into urban-life to help create sustainable, natural environments that please our souls and our palates.