Toro Alums to Debut Higher Ground Farm in May—Here’s How to Help

To raise enough money to start growing, the farm is throwing a benefit concert on February 17th.

BDC Rendering 1 copy

Rendering courtesy of Higher Ground Farms.

This spring, the Boston area will be getting its first rooftop farm—and it just so happens to be the second largest open-air roof farm in the world. UVM grads Courtney Hennessey and John Stoddard, both formerly of the South End’s Toro, conceived the idea for a public garden two years ago and have been seeking the ideal rooftop ever since. When they found the 55,000-square-foot Boston Design Center space last summer, they knew they were in business—but also realized this wouldn’t just be a garden, but a farm, which they’ve since coined Higher Ground Farm.

With the help of Somerville-based Recover Green Roofs, and close to an acre of farmable “land,” Higher Ground will produce a diverse array of fruits and vegetables. And depending on their landlord’s approval, Hennessey and Stoddard hope to have chickens, rabbits, and bees further down the line of their 10-year lease. All produce will be sold to Boston residents through CSA shares (underserved neighborhoods will be offered subsidized shares). Higher Ground will set up a farm stand on-site, but won’t actually be at Boston-area farmer’s markets for a couple seasons. And whether you realize it or not, you’ll be eating fresh veggies from this rooftop farm all over town. Hennessey and Stoddard’s extensive restaurant connections earned them commitment from a number of chefs looking to supply their restaurants with the farm’s sustainable food, some of which include Sweet Cheeks, Toro, Coppa, American Provisions, and Tavern Road.

“We’re hoping to provide fresh food to the city, environmental benefits, as well as some education,” says Stoddard. “We want to be a source for the local food movement in Boston, but also a place of learning for the community—about farming, green roofs, and what happens when you combine the two.”

But in order to make this farm magic happen—and in time for growing season this May—Higher Ground needs financial help. Though they’re being considered for a couple grants at the moment, Hennessey and Stoddard still need to raise $20,000 to install the green roof components this spring, and their Kickstarter campaign just kicked off last week. Pledge anywhere from $10-$10,000 (or more) over the next month, and you’ll get some kind of farm goody from Higher Ground.

The best way to get involved with Higher Ground and meet the local food community behind this project is to attend their benefit Raise the Roof event on February 17th. Held in the Villa Victoria Center for the Arts in the South End, this benefit concert will feature beats from both local and Brooklyn-based bands including Lake Street Dive, Kings, Kellen Zakula, and My Gay Banjo, all of whom are good friends of Hennessey and Stoddard. Tickets are just $30—and the Higher Ground gang promises that the price will get you a real “barnstomper” of a show. All proceeds go directly to the creation of sustainable food on the top of Boston’s Design Center. Just don’t forget your dancing shoes (and some cash for the bar).

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