The 2011 award honors Boston businesses and individuals for an outstanding commitment to sustainability in the following categories: Green Business, Green Residential, Bike Friendly Business, and Sustainable Food.
Launched in 2007, the program is designed to highlight innovative approaches to energy reductions, water conservation, adaptive re-use of historic buildings, and sustainable landscaping methods.
This year the addition of the Sustainable Food category signals the city’s commitment to innovative food related businesses that are reducing their environmental footprint by reducing energy use, composting food waste, and increasing their water efficiency.
The city is home to some innovative urban agriculture start ups: City Growers, a for profit who’s mission is to transform vacant lots into urban sustainable farms. The Food Project works with teens on sites in Dorchester to provide a chemical free sustainable food system with a CSA program and donates over a quarter million pounds of food annually to local shelters. Top Sprouts is turning under-utilized rooftop space into productive vegetable gardens providing fresh vegetables and a greener roof for customers.
Green residential awards will honor residents that have incorporate sustainable practices into their home, yards and neighborhoods in the following sub-categories:
Climate Action Leadership, Waste Reduction, Green Home Conservation/ Renovation, and Sustainable Landscaping.
The proliferation of Boston area farmer’s markets has seen extremely positive growth over the last few years. The mass.gov agriculture site offers the complete list of farmer’s markets in the state.
While there has been steady growth of traditional farmer’s markets throughout the growing season, the business model has expanded to include meat and seafood shares. The community supported fishery of Cape Ann Fresh Catch (CAFC) provides sustainably caught, dayboat fish with a direct to customer approach throughout the region to sixteen communities including Cambridge, Marblehead, Ipswich and the Fenway and Jamaica Plain neighborhoods of Boston. Now in its third season the program offers weekly and bi-weekly shares of whole and filetted options for folks. John Crow Farm in Groton, MA offers all natural, grass-fed and pasture raised beef, lamb, pork and poultry at the following locations- Cambridge, Jamaica Plain, Groton and Somerville, MA.
Winter markets have been sprouting up throughout the region and now provide a variety of cold-stored produce, meat, breads and locally produced products like honey and preserved items from November to April.
Boston’s urban agriculture horizon has seen a number of start-ups that are based on a variety of business models-
City Fresh Foods in Dorchester provides food services and locally sourced and healthy foods for area schools, hospitals, child care facilities throughout metro Boston with a mission that is committed to provide healthy and ecologically friendly meals using fresh local ingredients from a community owned operation. City Fresh Foods has been an economic success story as highlighted in the Boston Herald.
Top Sprouts is exploring development of an innovative roof top agriculture business model, that highlights high performance, year round growing techniques and thoughtfully intregrates building science and water management. Top Sprouts CEO Alice Leung participated in a series of BRA sponsored discussions to explore the human health, regulatory, green building, and economic impacts of roof top agriculture in Boston.
Restaurants can get into the game too with help from the (Boston based!) Chef’s Collaborative, an organization that helps restaurant owners link with sustainable, local farms.
Here’s an interesting article measuring the impact of farmers markets on local economies through the Project for Public Places. Strengthening our local food web is crucial to boosting our economy and will help ensure that more Boston residents have access to healthy and locally produced food. Local food guide to metro Boston -Farm Fresh.org
Over the last two years, GreenTech has explored how best to promote urban agriculture businesses within Boston including ground and roof based ventures. Working with the Mayor’s Food Policy Director and BRA zoning experts, the City is taking its first steps toward a demonstration scale project that will help us learn about how to integrate commercial grade growing businesses in underutilized parcels. The project will include community hearings and ultimately, will help inform development of an agricultural zoning provision.
Boston will hold its first Local Food Festival on Saturday, October 2nd along the beautiful Fort Port Channel in front of the Children’s Museum. The Festival aims to increase interest in and awareness of locally and sustainably grown food. Personally, I’m looking forward to the Whole Hog Demo; I figure actual sausage making will provide a welcome distraction from clean energy snausages in Washington. Festival goers will have access to locally grown food (including beer, mead, fish and artisinal cheeses), enjoy live cooking demonstrations, and learn more about Massachusetts farms.
Local food/farming is serious business. The number of farms in Massachusetts has increased by 27% since 2002. And many of those farms have expanded their offerings by adding tours, bed and breakfasts, nature paths, hayrides, and more. These new Agri-tourism destinations saw revenues of $5.6 million in 2007. Farms across the state have also invested in energy efficiency and renewable energy systems.
Back in Boston, local food entrepreneurs can build their business at Crop Circle Kitchen in Jamaica Plain. Local farmers connect with the best Boston restaurants in partnership with the Chef’s Collaborative. And shoppers can find many local food products on the shelves of City Feed and Supply. Looking ahead, hydroponic farming ventures – both ground and roof based – are exploring business opportunities in Boston and several innovative restaurants including the Ledge in Dorchester have begun to experiment with roof top farming to supplement their conventional sources and spice up their dishes.
In an upcoming post, we’ll talk about steps we’re taking to help Boston based food businesses remain competitive while promoting new and innovative sustainable urban agriculture ventures. In the meantime, clear your calendar for Oct 2.
Over the last 18 months or so, I’ve been approached by a handful of entrepreneurs who are pursuing innovative approaches to urban farming. Localvore consumer sentiment, combined with an increased awareness of our food supply’s carbon (and water) footprint and food system thinking generally have created ideal growing conditions (sorry) for sustainble urban agribusiness. But these creative entrepreneurs/new ventures, including Alice Leung at (Top Sprouts), Glynn Lloyd (City Fresh), and Stephen Kennedy Smith (Verticrop) also expose regulatory challenges for municipal policy makers.
We will continue to explore additional policies and programs that can accelerate the work of Boston’s new food entrenpreneurs. Please contact me with your ideas. Let us know what we can do to improve the conditions for innovative urban agriculture economic development opportunities.