Food with a view: A look at Boston’s first rooftop farm

A rendering of the future Higher Ground Farm.
John Stoddard and Courtney Hennessey Owners of Higher Ground farm on the roof of the Boston Design Center. Photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki
John Stoddard and Courtney Hennessey Owners of Higher Ground farm on the roof of the Boston Design Center. Photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki

As Jamaica Plain residents Courtney Hennessey and John Stoddard sauntered around the roof of the Boston Design Center on a windy November morning, they had their eyes fixed on more than a breathtaking Boston skyline.

The site is future home to Higher Ground Farm, the city’s first rooftop farm, which will span across 55,000 square feet atop the famous Seaport District structure.

“I think the city wants this,” said Hennessey. “It’s already happening
in New York and Chicago. People really want to see something happen in
Boston”

“People want to know where their food is coming from,” Stoddard said. “We have an obesity epidemic, and there is a lot of talk around food right now. There is more information about the way our food is being produced.”

Recover Green Roofs, a Somerville company, is overseeing the project’s installation, which will likely begin this winter.

Once completed in the spring, it 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 Boston Design Center was one of six buildings the pair considered before settling on the eight-story building, which had the perfect space, height and location for the project.

Julie Rogowski, vice president and general manager of the Boston Design Center, said the project fits with the center’s goal to showcase original design concepts. The clincher, however, was the opportunity to promote sustainability in the community.

“We have ample roof space that we are eager to see go green,” Rogowski said. “We are thrilled to be a part of this innovative plan and we look forward to enjoying the fruits – and vegetables – of Boston’s first rooftop farm.”

Hennessey and Stoddard expect to make their first harvest next fall, plucking a diverse selection of vegetables from the 10-inch-deep soil, with a concentration on tomatoes, herbs, and greens.

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

“A lot of this will start to shake out as the business starts to unfold,” Stoddard said. “We call ourselves an urban agriculture company, so we’re focusing on starting this roof farm, but we’d like to expand as the business gets going.”

If all goes well, the pair may hire additional sets of hands, and hop to other roof tops.

In the meantime, city officials are on board with the plan.

“Higher Ground Farm is poised to do some really innovative work – getting food into the neighborhoods through corner stores, farmers’ markets, restaurants and CSAs,” Mayor Thomas M. Menino said. “They’ll be the first ‘green roof’ in Boston doing large-scale commercial agriculture. We commend them for being the first, and we know they won’t be the last.”


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