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This farm is high above the ground.
If you have vertigo, you might have a hard time visiting this farm. Higher Ground Farm operates from the roof of the Boston Design Center, in South Boston’s Seaport area. The farm brings commercial urban food production to the a most creative place – the top of a building.
Higher Ground is the second-largest roof-top farm in the world. Yes, in the world. They operate on a rooftop that has 55,000 square feet of space accessible. All of Stoddard and Hennessey’s produce is delivered to their customers by bike. They sell to a network of restaurants and retailers around Boston, all within a 5-20 minute bike ride.
Courtney Hennessey and John Stoddard co-founded Higher Ground Farm in 2013. Hennessey’s many years’ experiences in the restaurant industry and with small business management helped lead her to co-found Higher Ground. She also worked with The Food Project for four seasons, learning about commercial scale farming and marketing. Stoddard has a background in sustainable food systems, waste reduction, and environmental health. He also works as a Healthy Food in Health Care Coordinator for the non-profit organization, Health Care Without Harm, and facilitates local and sustainable food procurement for health care institutions throughout New England.
As jets fly over head, Stoddard and I converse about the tomatoes. They expect to have a longer season for the crop, because of the building’s heat-radiating effect. They have lush produce and diverse crops: various tomatoes, kale, spinach, basil.
A lot of people have been interested in what Higher Ground Farm are doing. Though roof-top farming is not a new concept, it is only now being explored at the commercial scale, made more possible with Boston’s recent Article 89 zoning code legislation. What they’re doing is about local food sourcing, re-valuing under-utilized space, integrated land uses, nutritious produce, and the environmental benefits of roof-top farming.
Stoddard and Hennessey reuse as many materials as they can. Their primary growing modules are easily-accessible milk crates. As many as possible were sourced from restaurants, Save That Stuff (recycling & waste management business), and salvaged, rather than purchased new. They have a pretty creative way of keeping birds away – pre-consumer beverage can tops, strung through the crop rows. The reflectance and noise helps deter avid avian consumers.
Though farming is by no means an easy line of work, Higher Ground has fun – they harvest their produce with music, laughter, and a good attitude. They have a number of volunteer days throughout the season to help prepare for crop transitions, and set up for and take down from growing.
As they continue to prepare for the next season, we look forward to see how their farm stand and production volumes will grow.
Elli & Lina