Urban Farming: Bastille Cafe & Bar
SUFCo farmers and Bastille’s chefs work together to choose unique and seasonally appropriate crops. SUFCo performs ongoing crop and soil management, and Bastille kitchen staff visit the garden daily to ensure crops are harvested at their peak. (Image: Joshua Lewis / Seattle Refined)

Urban Farming: Bastille Cafe & Bar

Seattle Urban Farm Company (SUFCo) is a local business that designs, builds and maintains beautifully landscaped farms for apartment complexes, restaurants and residences. Over the past two weeks we've taken you inside one of their apartment complex rooftop farms, a residential farm - and now we're looking at their farm on the top of Bastille Cafe and Bar in Ballard.

A thriving, successful neighborhood hotspot on the ground level, Bastille came to SUFCo in 2009 wanting a farm installed on their roof for chefs to harvest from on a daily basis. They had to undergo some retrofitting to be brought up to code, so it was the perfect time to add a farm.

"They did it the right way," said SUFCo co-founder Colin McCrate. "It's so much easier and less expensive to work a farm into the beginning of a construction project than going back later trying to work it in."

Now, several years later - the 4,500 square foot farm is not only relied heavily on by the chefs, but also enjoyed by guests for special summer Monday night tours.

"We come in twice a week to maintain the garden," said McCrate, who mans the farm himself. "But the chefs do all the harvesting."

A large whiteboard is mounted in the hall on the way up to the garden from the restaurant; where what looks like blueprints of the garden are laid out with smudged dry erase writing all over it. SUFCo and the chefs use this to notate what needs to be harvested and re-planted, and to communicate back and forth with each other. 

"[Executive Chef Jason Stoneburner] likes to be really involved," said McCrate. "And it's a restaurant, so the menus are constantly changing. We're learning what does and doesn't work up here." 

Rooftops are much warmer than ground level gardens, so certain things grow better and worse at that height. Lettuce, for example, is tricky to grow - and SUFCo usually enables roof covers to help cool it off.

"Mustard greens thrive up here," said McCrate. "And we go through a lot of radishes."

Sometimes when McCrate comes to work, a whole crop of lettuce, beans, or cucumbers are gone - and it's up to them to replenish.

"We try and grow mostly fast growing, highly productive crops," said McCrate. "Things with a short season."

These things are easy and fast to grow, so when chefs level out a flat of mustard greens it won't be that long until more is up, growing and available. Other short season-ers are radishes, turnips, bush beans, head lettuce and soft herbs.

"For the most part, things have been growing vigorously up here," said McCrate.

SUFCo runs farms for three other restaurants: a shared one for Ravish and Sushi Kappo Tamura in Eastlake, and one for Quality Athletics, the Skillet owners new sports bar in Pioneer Square.  

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