Urban Farming Expanding in Boston

Introduced in June, Article 89 is now a law.

Technically, the Boston Zoning Commission just approved new zoning that will support the growth of commercial farming in Boston to help improve access to affordable, fresh, and healthy food. Article 89, which we covered this past summer, creates clarity in Boston’s zoning code for urban farmers who want to pursue ground level and rooftop urban food production. But, it’s not as if this hasn’t been happening already. Boston is home to the second largest roof top farm in the world, and B.good restaurants grow more than 700 pounds of tomatoes every year on top of a downtown parking garage. In kiddy pools.

The new zoning is the result of a three year collaboration. Mayor Tom Menino will sign the zoning into law this week.

“Urban agriculture is an innovative way to improve city life. Boston’s new zoning creates opportunities for entrepreneurs, decreases the distance food travels from farm to table, and better ours communities,” Mayor Menino said in a press release. “Growing food within our city limits means better access to food and economic empowerment, all while cultivating a sense of neighborhood unity, and greening our city.”

According to the press release:

By formalizing zoning for urban agriculture, Boston has put itself at the forefront of urban food production. Article 89 addresses a wide range of growing activities, including ground-level farms, roof-level farms, roof-level greenhouses, composting, aquaculture, hydroponics, aquaponics, freight farming, farmers’ markets, farm stands, and soil safety. The keeping of hens and bees on residential property is already addressed in the existing Zoning Code, but Article 89 details size and maintenance requirements for these uses. Article 89 applies only to commercial agricultural endeavors; community gardens and backyard gardening are not a part of the new zoning.

“We have an opportunity to develop our community — the people who live in it and the land around it — in a holistic sort of way,” said Bruce Bickerstaff, Roxbury community leader and member of the Urban Agriculture Working Group. “I’m excited for members of our community who might not otherwise have the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of such an exciting business opportunity that is economic, nutritional, educational and spiritual in its nature.”