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
International

PHOTO: Queen Elizabeth pulls off epic photobomb

The selfie / photobomb has gone viral.

Local

Astoria minivan crash kills 1, injures 6: NYPD

Anthony Boyd, 45, died soon after what investigators believe was some sort of medical emergency as he drove his family through Astoria on Sunday afternoon.

Local

NYC pension funds valued at $160b: Scott Stringer

The five NYC pension funds that thousands of city employees contribute to saw its fifth year in a row of increased returns, up $23 billion from last year.

International

Sierra Leone Ebola patient, recovered from family, dies…

An Ebola patient whose family sparked a nationwide hunt when they forcefully removed her from a treatment center and took her to a traditional healer has died.

Entertainment

'Kim Kardashian: Hollywood' game easter eggs and cheats

"Kim Kardashian: Hollywood" is the hottest game of the moment. Here are its best easter eggs as well as some tips and tricks to speed your way to the top.

Television

Kacy Catanzaro credits mind over body in "American…

Kacy Catanzaro credits her victory to mental focus and upper body strength.

Entertainment

Q&A: The brains behind 'Kim Kardashian: Hollywood'

"Kim Kardashian: Hollywood" is the hottest game of the moment. We talked with Christopher Locke of Glu Canada to find out more about developing the game.

Movies

The 'Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' trailer is…

Watch 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' trailer.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

MLB

Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…

MLB

Yankees GM Brian Cashman breaks down art of…

The action frequently accelerates as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, as it will on Thursday.

Tech

Amazon offers 3D printing to customize earrings, bobble…

By Deepa SeetharamanSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc will offer 3D printing services that allow customers to customize and build earrings, bobble head toys and…

Wellbeing

This Week In Health: Friends share similar DNA,…

Friends share similar DNA, study finds Location: U.S. Study subjects: Nearly 2,000 people Results: When it comes to our social networks, it seems that birds of…

Education

Are liberal arts colleges turning away from the…

Bryn Mawr College, a small women's college located just outside of Philadelphia, announced last week that it would be making standardized tests like the SAT…

Education

Recent grads discover school superintendent plagiarized parts of…

  Two recent high school graduates made a surprising discovery about the commencement speech their school superintendent delivered at their graduation: portions of it was copied…