JF Bites – Higher Ground Farm8 Min.
Every day when the showrooms of the Boston Design Center are humming with creativity and the offices of the Innovation and Design Building are buzzing with productivity, there are even more miraculous things happening above us all.
On the roof of the IDB is the Higher Ground Farm, one of the largest rooftop open air farms in the US. Founded by Courtney Hennessey and John Stoddard who met at the University of Vermont while studying Environmental Science. Post graduation they continued down a similar path both working in sustainability and food production in different areas of the country. Fortunately for us, they re-connected in Boston and the seed for this innovative rooftop farm was germinated. Through serious time and effort and a successful kick-starter campaign the two were able to secure a 10-year lease on the roof.
“We had a specific number of criteria that we were looking for, the biggest one being it had to be a minimum of 25,000 square feet to make it cost-effective,” Hennessey explains. “We needed water access to the roof, we needed a parapet wall already installed, a landlord that was interested, the roof membrane needed to be in good shape… the Boston Design Center was the first one that fit the full bill.”*
That was in 2013, the farm now supplies some great Boston restaurants including the of the IDB containers Jubali and MeiMei, and they have a farm stand on Fridays – talk about convenience food for BDC showrooms!
Rooftop farms help the community in many ways – check out these great benefits from the Higher Ground Farm website.
Urban heat island effect. Black roofs absorb heat during the day and then radiate the heat out during the night. This makes cities hotter than surrounding areas (a heat island), increasing cooling costs and energy usage. A roof farm can lower the temperature of roofs and the surrounding air. Multiple rooftop farms in the Boston area could have a significant impact on energy usage.
Stormwater management. A rooftop farm will retain and slow the run-off of precipitation into storm drains by increasing the pervious surface area in the city. This means fewer combined sewer overflows (CSOs) that pollute waterways, and cost millions in tax dollars for treatment.
CO2 & Air Quality. By reducing a building’s energy usage roof farms can reduce carbon emissions. Furthermore, city-produced food can decrease the energy required for transporting food to eaters, and add carbon breathing plants to the city landscape.
Increase access to fresh, healthy food. As a local farm, the food we grow will make it to our customer’s plates at its peak of freshness. We will access a diversity of markets including restaurants, corner stores, and farmers markets. We strive to have a positive impact on food security in the Boston area.
Rooftop farming increases urban density. By adding green space in an urban area, we increase biodiversity and provide habitat for a diversity of insects and birds.
This blending of sustainability, good health, environmentalism, and innovation are a benchmark for the rest of us. Projects like the Higher Ground Farm are exactly what the city of Boston needs to invigorate more independent urban projects that are creative, forward thinking, and fresh.
Check out this video of the farm’s first season made by Evolve Magazine.
*Boston Home Magazine, Supply Chain: Up on the Roof with Higher Ground Farm
Behind the scenes at Boston’s first rooftop farm. By Cassandra Landry