Second-Largest Rooftop Farm Takes Root in Boston
The aptly-named Higher Ground Farm will open this spring on the roof of the Boston Design Center. It will cultivate an amazing 55,000 square feet, or a little over an acre, on top of the Design Center’s renovated old warehouse, just across Boston Harbor from Logan Airport and only a mile and a half from the heart of downtown. It will be the city’s first rooftop farm and, according to an article written by Steve Annear for BostInno, the world’s second-largest.
Founded by Courtney Hennessey and John Stoddard, former classmates at the University of Vermont, Higher Ground will use organic methods to grow a diverse array of fruits and vegetables for the Boston community, to be sold through community-supported agriculture shares and an on-site farm stand, and to restaurants. According to Stoddard, the farm “is also working on a partnership with a non-profit to distribute vegetables to corner stores in places where fresh produce isn’t readily available.” Operations will begin this spring.
As discussed in my recent article on Peaceful Belly, the community-serving organic farm outside of Boise, I’m a fan of city gardens and farms that contribute fresh food and benefits to the urban environment but do not interfere with important urban attributes such as density and walkability. Cities still need to be cities, for a host of environmental and other reasons. Higher Ground’s approach, which does not occupy any street-level urban space, only enhances the city fabric without displacing it.
In addition, because it also is a green roof, Higher Ground helps cool the heat island effect that otherwise raises city temperatures and air conditioning needs. Green roofs also absorb stormwater, a huge benefit especially so close to the harbor. (I previously wrote about a rooftop garden in downtown Washington, created by the non-profit food provider Bread for the City, here.)
In an article posted on the website of the Massachusetts Sustainable Business Leader Program, Stoddard notes that a recent zoning update has made it easier to engage in city gardening, and urges that more of the right types of urban spaces be devoted to the growing of food:
“In re-imagining our food system as a key component of an environmentally sustainable human society, let’s draw from our agricultural past while placing it in a modern context. Localized organic food production on rooftops, in empty warehouses, in freight containers, and in vacant lots has great potential to increase the availability of fresh healthy food, while benefitting the ecosystem and reconnecting urban populations to where food comes from. So while we probably will not see a ruminant resurgence in the Boston Common, we might begin to hear chickens clucking and bees buzzing from our rooftops. Let’s plant the seeds now for our food future by investing in roof agriculture.”
Higher Ground’s rooftop farming infrastructure is being installed by Recover Green Roofs, a Massachusetts-based company that also created the rendering accompanying this article. For more, let Hennessey and Stoddard tell you in this on-location video:
- The link between sustainable farming and sustainable communities (February 20, 2013)
- Urban farm grows more than food as kids gain work, leadership skills (October 10, 2012)
- Organic farm prepares veterans for jobs in sustainable agriculture (November 11, 2011)
- City gardens that respect the urban fabric (July 15, 2009)
- DC charity develops large rooftop garden to serve the city (April 20, 2011)
- Legislation introduced to bring healthy food to distressed neighborhoods (December 3, 2010)
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Kaid Benfield writes about community, development, and the environment on Switchboard and in the national media. For more posts, see his blog's home page. Please also visit NRDC’s sustainable communities video channels.
Senior counsel for environmental strategies, PlaceMakers LLC; senior adviser, Natural Resources Defense Council; co-founder, LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system; co-founder, Smart Growth America coalition; author, People Habitat: 25 Ways to Think About Greener, Healthier Cities (2014); one of the "top urban thinkers" on Planetizen.com and named one of "the most influential people ...