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Will Boston Go Agrarian?

In the past few years, the Boston economy has grown rapidly with the rise of the start up community, small and large businesses, and new ecofriendly measures. However, it seems that the Boston government is looking to stimulate a less visible facet of the economy: commercial farming.

Photo courtesy of ROxBo/Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy of ROxBo / Wikimedia Commons

One of former mayor Tom Menino’s last actions in office was to sign off on Article 89, a new zoning ordinance, making it legal for Bostonians to start a commercial farm. Article 89, the Urban Agriculture Rezoning Initiative, lays out the types of farming facilities and the livestock permitted in the city, as well as the requirements for soil safety.

Article 89 has received mixed reviews, and there are clear shortcomings of urban farming. Economists have stressed that urban agriculture is an extremely low-value use of square footage and may cost a significant amount to operate.

Photo courtesy of USDA/Wikimedia Commons.

Photo courtesy of USDA / Wikimedia Commons.

However, there are many within the community who see the potential of beginning commercial farms in an urban environment. There are many ecofriendly benefits, which could possibly reduce energy waste. Growing produce locally also serves many health and environmental needs. Restaurants, grocery stores and even colleges could purchase their food from local farmers just a few miles away.

Farming in Boston will not look like it used to before the twentieth century. Do not expect to see cows being herded down Comm. Ave. or find chickens roaming around Copley square. With land proposals already accepted and the urban farming movement growing, what can one expect to see?

A rooftop garden in Rockefeller Center, NYC. Photo courtesy of David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons.

A rooftop garden in Rockefeller Center, NYC.
Photo courtesy of David Shankbone / Wikimedia Commons.

Bee keeping has already begun in Boston, but now rooftop greenhouses, underwater farms and even chickens may find their place. Although there are obvious restrictions, especially with livestock, underwater farming is a huge prospect for a coastal city like Boston.

Underwater farms that grow shellfish and seaweed have the potential to produce food without using any fertilizer and requiring no freshwater. These organisms also clean the waterways by soaking up nitrogen and other pollutants from their surroundings.

Rooftop gardens and greenhouses have also sprung up in cities like Montreal, Tokyo and even New York City. Rooftop greenhouses have been used to grow produce such as carrots, tomatoes, lettuce and mushrooms.

Boston farming may not be as idyllic or as widespread as it used to be, but this is certainly evidence of what Bostonians view as important. Urban agriculture shows the desire of residents for local, fresh produce and self-sustenance.

Featured photo courtesy of Fir0002/Wikimedia Commons.
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Originally from New Jersey, welcoming Boston as my second home. I let soccer dictate my schedule. I cover events at Boston College and city news. Drop me a line or your two cents.