Higher Ground Farming "Sprouting" Up in City
Farm Owners Look to Grow in Boston
Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 23:02
What’s trendier than a rooftop garden? A rooftop farm, that’s what.
This spring, Higher Ground Farm (HGF) is launching Boston’s first rooftop farm on top of the Boston Design Center. Their farm will occupy 55,000 square feet, making it the second largest rooftop farm in the world, just behind a similar farm in Brooklyn. This project sprouted from the minds of Courtney Hennessey and John Stoddard, former classmates at the University of Vermont. After college, Hennessey relocated to Boston while Stoddard ended up across the country in Portland, OR. Both pursued the agricultural career path, and John’s eventual return to the east coast resulted in the birth of HGF.
“We’ve both worked in restaurants and are connected to the Boston food scene,” Stoddard said.
Although HGF is focusing their efforts on growing fruits and vegetables now, the sky is the limit—literally. Ultimately, they want their rooftop to house not only vegetation, but animals as well. However, HGF also strives to cultivate more than just food: they want the community to prosper—physically and mentally—as a result of their project. They want to provide a portion of the city’s culinary needs, supplying fresh, homegrown food as an alternative to the manufactured, artificial food sold in traditional supermarkets. Even further, they want their farms to be a center for education, where members of the community can learn culinary skills, as well as more about green architecture.
HGF happens to be a leader in green building design. Their green roof is composed of a series of layers—including structural support, insulation, drainage, a growing medium, and vegetation—which serves as a triple threat. The innovative roof extends the life of the existing roof, while reducing energy costs. Green roofs can also contribute to future economic growth: roof space can now be rented and there is an increased opportunity for job creation.
Stoddard said that he and Hennessy “hope that the first rooftop is successful” and that they hope to have about five farms within ten years in order to have five acres of production.
HGF cites five specific societal benefits.
1. A decrease in the urban heat island effect:
Cities are hotter because the roofs of skyscrapers radiate heat absorbed during the day, which results in higher energy costs for buildings, but a green roof can reduce the temperature of the surrounding air and thus reduce the energy costs (and usage).
2. Stormwater management:
More rooftop farms means less runoff, which means less sewer overflows, which means fewer tax dollars going toward pollution in the waterways and flooding.
3. Reduction of carbon and improved air quality:
As mentioned before, green roofs reduce the energy consumption of their buildings, which in turn reduces carbon emissions. And because the food is grown locally, there is less worry about carbon emissions from transportation.
4. Increased access to fresh, healthy food:
This one is self-explanatory—HGF’s main priority is the freshness of their products and the happiness and health of their customers.
5. Other benefits:
The creation of a rooftop farm makes use of a previously unused space, which is incredibly efficient. This space could potentially provide habitats for displaced animals and increase the biodiversity of the city.
This idyllic vision, however, comes with a price tag. HGF is still in the process of raising the funds necessary to begin construction: in addition to private grants and potential corporate sponsorship, they have launched a Kickstarter.com campaign, aimed at raising $20,000 by the end of February, and they are hosting a benefit concert on Feb. 17. Despite the rapidly approaching deadlines, the team remains optimistic and plans to be operational by the summertime, even if it means the farm is not entirely developed at that point.
Ultimately, HGF wants to spread to other rooftops across the city—one of the most crucial components to the success of their ultimate vision is citywide participation, as more farms means more communal benefit.