Nine stories up atop the Boston Design Center, the city’s first commercial rooftop farm has taken root. Higher Ground Farm‘s first season is well under way as founding farmers John Stoddard and Courtney Hennessey tend to 2,000 square feet of greens, tomatoes, and herbs. “Our plan is to develop the whole roof,” John explained to me earlier this week. He expects the expansion to occur during spring 2014, which will increase the farm’s production area to roughly 38,000 square feet (0.9 acre).
The first phase of construction was made possible by the farm’s crowd-funding campaign, which raised close to $24,000 in 30 days. Local friends and supporters from afar pledged 321 micro-donations, resulting in a big impact.
Thanks to the expertise of local design-build company REcover Green Roofs, the rooftop was assessed and Higher Ground Farm designed on paper. Load constraints toward the front of the building resulted in a lightweight planter design that deploys milk crates lined with filter fabric (or “separation fabric” as it’s known in the green roof industry), topped with surface drip lines. The crate planters were installed several months ago, and a row farm on stronger roof areas is slated for install during the next construction phase.
Where does all this food go? “We’re selling to restaurants and retailers,” John explained, “we have 11 accounts right now… [and] we’re pretty much selling out every week.” The farmers may open a farm stand in the lobby of their building later this season, but the big jump in sales will come after the farm expansion with the addition of a CSA. Building tenants and neighbors will be able to buy a farm share at the start of the season in exchange for months of fresh, rooftop produce.