By Aminah McNulty
Wednesday evening, we gathered in the inconspicuous parking lot of the Facilities & Maintenance building for Boston Medical Center (BMC). A few feet above us, just out of sight, the 7,000 square-foot rooftop farm resides, overlooking 180 degree views of South Boston.
Lindsay Allen, farm manager for the BMC farm, Brendan Shea, Director of Operations at Recover Green Roofs and David Stickler with the Boston Area Beekeeping Association led our tour. Lindsay introduced the site to us and explained the context of urban farming and local food in the area. She personally wheels all of her produce through the hospital into the demonstration kitchen so no fossil fuels are used to bring fresh food to patient’s plates. There is a strong symbiosis between the farm and demonstration kitchen at the hospital, which includes a “farm medley” served to patients, CSA shares for new families and dietary specific cooking classes.
Brendan unpacked the technical side of how the farm was constructed. A modular system of milk crates filled with a porous lining and top-grade compost from the Vermont Compost Company made the operation simple and straightforward to install. The irrigation system has a weather sensor to monitor sound, atmosphere, temperature and precipitation. Irrigation will shut off if rain gauge reads above ⅛ of rain or there is more than ⅛ of rain in the forecast. Specific roof-top site constraints include the weight of rainfall, waterproofing the roof system and withstanding wind speed. The team had to come up with specific solutions to address these issues.
David walked us through some common misconceptions about urban beekeeping and explained the simplicity and importance of living close to pollinators. Interestingly, urban bees find more diversity in pollination sources than rural bees because of the wider variety of what people plant in their urban gardens and flower pots.
We gathered at Stella Restaurant in the South End after our tour for a networking event kindly sponsored by Vermont Compost Company. This tour was the first in a series of USGBC programming around urban agriculture, green roofs and food justice. Stay tuned for our next event!