livin’ on the ledge

Today’s quest for local food brings us to Ledge Kitchen & Drinks, a trendy restaurant in Dorchester, MA, 15 miles south of Boston.  Chef Uri Abragimovich aims to provide guests with the freshest, most local ingredients possible.  The source?  You guessed it: the roof.

Jason Price from Green City Growers harvesting cucumbers ||  photo by Patrick Rogers Photography

Green City Growers’s Jason Price harvesting Ledge cucumbers || photo by Patrick Rogers Photography

The restaurant’s 4,000 square foot (0.09 acre) rooftop farm provides fresh vegetables, fruit, and herbs for the kitchen below, thereby reducing the ingredients’ food miles to zero.  Crops are grown in six to 14-inch deep raised beds, framed with naturally rot-resistant black locust wood.  Recycled rubber mulch surrounds the raised beds.  This material (which is often used in playgrounds) provides a soft walking surface while slowing runoff and protecting the roof’s waterproofing membrane.  All-in-all, the design utilizes local, reclaimed materials to achieve a rather sophisticated design.

Rooftop Ledge fennel || photo by Patrick Rogers Photography

Rooftop Ledge fennel || photo by Patrick Rogers Photography

REcover Green Roofs, LLC designed the “food roof” and completed construction in June 2010.  The local green roof company partnered with Green City Growers to manage farming operations and tend to crops.  Green City Growers regularly coordinates with the restaurant staff to create a truly seasonal menu.

In fall 2012, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities – the international green roof trade organization – awarded REcover Green Roofs with an Award of Excellence for the project.  The award recognized not only the use of local materials, but also the farm’s water-efficient irrigation system and use of chemical-free farming techniques.  I met with REcover Green Roofs’ director of operations, Mark Winterer, and project manager Brendan Shea last week.  They expressed how pleased they are with the roof’s performance and stewardship.  The duo plans to incorporate lessons learned from the Ledge into future food roof designs in New England.

Rooftop farms continue to sprout above restaurants in Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, and elsewhere.  As more and more pop up, you may just find yourself livin’ on the ledge!

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