Posted February 27th 2013 at 4:28 pm by
in Crowdsourced City

A Rooftop Farm for Boston's Fort Point Neighborhood

This (new) column features current crowdsourced funding projects in greater Boston. Today’s project, Higher Ground Farm, has three days left on its kickstarter campaign.

A rendering of Higher Ground Farm’s vision for Boston Design Center’s rooftop. Image credit: Recover Green Roofs of Somerville, Mass.

A city as dense as Boston is short on farmland, but not on rooftops.

Courtney Hennessey and John Stoddard understood the local land shortage when they began to envision Higher Ground Farm, so they scoured Boston for very large roofs. “We would ride bikes around the city and go to neighborhoods where we knew there were big buildings, and we would write their addresses down and contact the building owner,” said Stoddard.

Theirs will be the first rooftop farm in Boston, so they needed a roof big enough to plant a profitable farm, and also an enthusiastic landlord.

On a trip to Fort Point Channel, Stoddard suggested that they check out the Boston Design Center after they’d finished looking at a different building. They called a phone number posted on the outside and made a connection immediately. The Design Center was excited from the get-go. “We found our enthusiastic landlord,” said Stoddard.

They plan to plant on 40,000 square feet of the building’s roof this spring and sell their produce this summer. “We want to use bikes for delivery because that would eliminate the need for a truck,” says Stoddard.

Rooftop farms are few in the United States, but pioneer operations are proving to offer social and economic benefits. Green roofs retain heat in the winter and keep buildings cool in the summer. They reduce rain runoff, which decreases sewer overflows. Cities have to treat dirty rainwater at sewage plants. Finally, roof farms generate good press and goodwill for building owners.

The City of Boston is currently drafting Article 89, which is meant to expand urban agriculture on the ground, on roofs, and on the sides of buildings too. Edith Murnane, Director of Food Initiatives for the City of Boston, was an early fan of Higher Ground Farm. “There is a lot of work to be done, but they’re really at the forefront of it,” said Murnane.

Murnane, sometimes called the Food Czar of Boston, feels that this is a very exciting time for agriculture in her city. “Agriculture is coming back to Boston. A better understanding of where our food comes from, knowing our farmer — these things are more and more important.”

Hennessey and Stoddard have been collaborating for fifteen years, since they met as freshmen at the University of Vermont. Now their years of work on farms and food policy are coming (literally) to fruition.

The farming duo, however, is still in need of capital. They’re pursuing loans and grants in addition to in-person fundraisers and crowdsourced funding. They estimate $300,000 in start up costs. Their recent kickstarter campaign met its fundraising goal four days early, but are hoping yet more comes in. The $20,000 they asked for is a modest sum compared to the amount they need to start farming.

Post by Alexa Mills.

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