Farm Your Roof

By Amanda Beland

12/9/2013

Rooftop gardens and farms are beginning to take flight in Boston.

Higher Ground is Boston’s first rooftop commercial farm. It’s located on the roof of the Design Center in South Boston. The 55,000-square-foot urban garden had its first growing season and harvest this past summer.

According to co-owner and co-founder John Stoddard, the project began as an environmental effort but slowly evolved into a movement to help bring fresh food to the masses.

“Food security is definitely a part of this,” said Stoddard.

The farm is a dual effort between Stoddard and Courtney Hennessey. The two friends met while attending college in Vermont. After graduation, both went their separate ways with different careers. Several years passed before the two met up again in Boston and decided to start Higher Ground.

During their first season growing season this past summer, the farm sold produce to local restaurants. Next year, with a full growing season under its belt, Stoddard said the farm plans to have Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares up for grabs as well as several farm stands. A CSA allows people to pay a certain amount of money up front at the beginning of a growing season. This payment entitles them to a certain variety of vegetables every week.

Get in the Zone

Concepts like Higher Ground, however, are rare – for the time being.

Current zoning regulations make the establishment and placement of rooftop gardens in the city a difficult process.

Article 89 would change this. The proposed zoning regulation – developed through the Boston Redevelopment Authority – would allow rooftop gardens in major institutional, industrial and commercial zoning areas. The BRA was started by Mayor Tom Menino.  Article 89 would also – if approved – allow rooftop farms up to 5,000 square feet in almost every part of Boston.

Lyndsay Rose, director of marketing at Green City Growers, said rooftop gardens are a new and developing trend in Boston. The new regulations, Rose said, will give the movement more momentum.

Green City Growers is a local organization that aids interested residents and organizations in installing and maintaining urban gardens. Since being founded in 2009, they’ve installed over 500 urban gardens throughout the Greater Boston region. Rose said a small portion of those urban gardens have been roof gardens.

For more information on Article 89, visit the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s website.
About Amanda Beland 5 Articles
Amanda Beland is a second year graduate student at Emerson College. Although her background is in print reporting, Amanda’s real passion lies in radio journalism. Amanda is a reporter for the news department at WERS, as well as their Promotions Director. Along with reporting, Amanda is also a self-described foodie and audiophile. Follow her on her blog at amandabeland.com.