The sky’s the limit for Higher Ground, Boston’s first rooftop farm

Higher Ground Farm co-founder John Stoddard works with tomato plants atop the Boston Design Center. Photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro
Higher Ground Farm co-founder John Stoddard works with tomato plants atop the Boston Design Center. Photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro

It took a lot of planning, lifting and fundraising, but Boston officially has its first rooftop farm.

Higher Ground Farm opened this week atop the Boston Design Center in the Seaport District after volunteers helped heft and set up thousands of pounds of soil and planting materials.

“You have to drink a lot of water, but you get used to it,” John Stoddard, the farm’s co-founder, said of working through a heat wave. “I’m used to working outdoors; I love it.”

He spent today hunched over hundreds of tomato plants, with his hands in the soil, the scorching sun on his shoulders and a hazy Boston skyline behind him.

Needless to say, he was covered with dirt, but his farmer’s tan was fabulous.

“It feels great now that it’s happening, but it was so much work getting here,” said Stoddard.

The Jamaica Plain resident literally got the farm off the ground with his business partner and long-time friend Courtney Hennessey.

Last week, dozens of volunteers helped load materials onto a crane at the base of the famous Seaport District structure so they could be unloaded nine stories above. Nearly 100 volunteers had reached out to the pair to offer help getting the farm up and running.

“People just want to come and hangout and help out. It’s really been sweet,” said Stoddard.

Now it’s a matter of “learning as you go,” said Stoddard, who finished installing the farm’s much-needed irrigation system Tuesday.

Stoddard and Hennessey partially funded the project by raising $24,000 on Kickstarter and hosting fundraisers. The pair now split their time caring for the farm, which is in the first of two phases.

The Boston Design Center’s roof spans 55,000 square feet, but for now, Higher Ground covers roughly half of the space. Over the next year, plants will be grown in individual milk crate planters. Stoddard said phase two will likely roll out next March, and will include the installation of green roof beds.

Once that happens, Higher Ground will be the second largest open-air commercial roof farm in the world, behind the 65,000-square foot Brooklyn Grange urban farm in New York.

The pair not only got help from local urban agriculture proponents, but also local businesses.

Recover Green Roofs designed and laid-out the farm, while Simpson, Gumpertz, and Heger did the structural engineering. Hunter Industries supplied the irrigation, and Stephen Iacovino of the Boston Design Center helped manage the installation process.

The planters are expected to yield organically grown herbs within a few weeks, with tomatoes are due in September. Stoddard and Hennessey plan to sell the produce to local restaurants who have already signed on to support the venture.

There is also talk of a farm stand, a CSA program, and bike deliveries, but much like the farm, that is all up in the air.

Despite the massive amount of work it’s taken to get the farm going, Stoddard said they are eager to reap what they’ve sown: “I think this is a project that Courtney and I really believe in, and we’re excited that a lot of other people believe in it too.”

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan
Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBOS


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Memorial held for Sean Collier, MIT police officer…

More than 1,600 people gathered at MIT on Friday for a memorial service for Sean Collier, the police officer shot to death a year ago in the aftermath of the…

National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox score two in…

Lester shines in Red Sox win over White Sox

Sports

2014 Boston Marathon preview: Elite American, International runners…

2014 Boston Marathon: Elite American, International runners to watch

NBA

2014 NBA Finals odds: Ranking which playoff teams…

2014 NBA Finals odds: Ranking which playoff teams have the best shot at a championship. The Thunder, Clippers, Heat and Rockets lead the way.

NFL

2014 Patriots, full NFL schedule release date announced

2014 Patriots, full NFL schedule release date announced

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.