Boston Medical Center (BMC) has transformed the once barren roof on top of its power plant building into the largest rooftop farm in that city. This past summer, the 7,000 square feet of growing space flourished with fresh produce, including arugula, bok choy, radishes, Swiss chard, and kale. The rooftop space produced approximately 15,000 pounds of food this growing season, most of which went directly to the hospital’s patients.
Close to 1,800 pounds of crops were harvested from the rooftop farm in June 2017. BMC’s Preventive Food Pantry received more than 960 pounds of the first yield, and the hospital’s kitchens received 830 pounds, ensuring the food is widely distributed to cafeterias across campus and that it is used in patients’ meals. Programs through BMC’s Demonstration Kitchen have also given the BMC community opportunities to visit the rooftop farm and learn about cooking with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Later-season crops such as tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, summer squash, and peppers were ready for harvest in July.
“The goal with our rooftop farm is to provide fresh, local produce to as many of our patients, employees, and community members as possible,” said David Maffeo, BMC’s senior director of support services. “This initiative supports our mission to address social determinants of health by improving access to healthy fruits and vegetables, and it is a perfect example of BMC’s dedication to sustainability and green efforts.”
The brainchild of Maffeo and Robert Biggio, senior vice president of facilities and support services, with the support of BMC’s Office of Development, the rooftop farm project was a year and a half in the making. Maffeo worked with Lindsay Allen and John Stoddard of Higher Ground Farm to find a rooftop and growing system that would work best for BMC’s needs. The farm was designed and installed by Somerville, MA-based, Recover Green Roofs, and Higher Ground Farm is managing the growing.