Roxbury gets city's first new urban farm

The new Garrison-Trotter Farm on Harold Street

City and state officials joined Harold Street residents today to officially break ground on the transformation of an old city-owned vacant lot into a vegetable farm made possible under a change in city zoning to allow farms in the city's more urbanized areas.

The Garrison-Trotter Farm will let participants - local residents who have been undergoing training in farming - provide fresh food to local residents and restaurants.

Among those wielding a shovel today: Former state Rep. Mel King:

Mel King



    Free tagging: 


    Anybody know the explanation

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    Anybody know the explanation behind the huge excavator ? It's not a typical farm implement.

    probably. urban soil is usually contaminated

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    with lead from the days when cars used leaded gasoline.

    had soil tested here in rozzie because I wanted to grow some veggies (cheap - send soil to UMass Amherst) - front came back high, but back yard was actually safe. you can actually grow fruiting plants in lead soil as long as you do some remediation (fish-based compost and high calcium content) and make sure you wash "fruit" with a mild vinegar solution, but i'd still recommend raised beds or containers unless you can afford to bring in someone to remove contaminated soil.


    List of city lots.

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    Is there a list out there of a city owned vacant lots easily accessible from the comfort of my laptop?


    Tomatoes over housing

    Nice, a site that could support a two or three unit house with affordable units taken for the growing of tomatoes which are available at Shaw's, Whole Foods, Tropical Foods, etc year round for far, far cheaper than this lot could ever produce, no pun intended.

    Glad to see the old guy with the house that's worth $2M who is always calling for affordable housing not supporting it here. Mel King is a two faced fossil.


    Clearly spoken by someone who

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    Clearly spoken by someone who's never experienced the joy of eating a tomato fresh off the vine or picked some food to be cooked that same day.


    We had/have a 5,000 SF Lot in Dot

    That lot supported a three family, a driveway which could fit two cars, a tidy front lawn, a patio, a rock garden, many flower beds, and wait for it, a garden which gave us tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, carrots, some very small spuds, peppers, and beans.

    That's three units of reasonably priced housing on a smaller lot than this plus fresh veggies.

    Saul, act like your namesake and get struck by the light. If you want to urban farm do it in your backyard. Instead of space wasted on one to two months of fresh food, how about year round housing with a garden for fresh summer veggies? This site is within a few minutes drive or a less than 15 minute walk to two Stop & Shops. Those guys have figured out how to get you food at reasonable prices year round. For every jackarese that whines about the lack of affordable housing, you shouldn't be taking developable sites off of the market thereby increasing the price of housing for everyone, making some people make poor food decisions owing to more money going towards housing than good sustenance.

    You have all these ideas about what "should be"

    ... and "shouldn't be".

    Have you ever considered actually doing something about this other than slash at what people who do stuff are actually working toward? Like, promoting your own vision and working to achieve it? Running for office, even?

    Or is it just so much easier to visit UHub to tear down whatever it is that other people are actually doing?


    Bike Lanes For All

    That's my slogan. After my kids are out of the house and I move back to the South End in 2026 I will guarantee you Byron Rushing, if he is still in office, will lose an epic primary battle to me. Back me Swirl. I promise snow melters under the SW Corridor Bike Path and Whole Foods in JP will be evicted and given over to Lamberts.


    Posting comments on blogs is a kind of work

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    In a democracy no one person can ever do anything on their own. Change happens when you have coalitions of people united behind a common purpose. And that can only happen when people discuss the ideas and persuade each other to that purpose. So posting on Universal Hub about how we need more housing instead of urban farms is how change happens: by slowly but surely challenging people's priorities.


    It's not either/or

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    Boston's population peaked at something like 800,000 people. There's plenty of room for both small-scale farming (we're not talking Midwestern cattle farms here) and new housing.

    It's easy for those of us in well-offish neighborhoods to think there's no need for increasing the supply of fresh food in certain not-well-off neighborhoods, but it is an issue (one of Tom Menino's greatest legacies may turn out to be the work he did in increasing the number of supermarkets in Boston).


    I suspect far more than 800

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    I suspect far more than 800,000 people want to live in Boston. For housing to be affordable, it needs to exceed demand. Any barrier to more density, even a relatively banal one, can be problematic. Still, I'm not particularly passionate about this specific issue. You can have urban farming even with Manhattan-style population densities. But that doesn't mean you will. I just wanted to defend the general point.

    It might be nice if we could have our cake and eat it too with vertical farming or something. Or just build public greenhouses on top of existing government buildings.

    Naah..maybe by 2030

    ..if it isn't half drowned.

    The thing that calls itself Boston is a bit smaller than the one that calls itself Manhattan.

    So you really compare similar land mass sizes. Population moves out from the core where there is more room.


    Parks, victory gardens, and

    Parks, victory gardens, and the occasional small urban farm help keep the water table up. Our love of pavement has caused a gross loss of the coastal fresh water table over the past half century. Boston is not quite at the Florida sinkhole level yet, but we don't want to get here, either.


    You might want to drive around that area first

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    The last person to speak before the ceremonial shovels were used was the president of the local neighborhood association. Had I known you were going to be so vitriolic towards Mel King, I would've quoted the ending of his speech, in which he invited everybody present to move there because there's new housing being built.

    Just two blocks away, on Seaver, there's a brand-new apartment building nearing completion. And the farm-to-be is right across the street from an old school turned into housing.

    It's not like that area is so dense it can't support both new housing and fresh vegetables.


    Tell Mel King to sell his 6 Bedroom Row House in the South End

    Take the at least $2,5M he would get from it, put his money where his mouth is and build 7 affordable units with it on some city lot near Franklin Park. Stop going around screaming at the developers of the Ink Block and other projects for more affordable housing than what city policy calls for and let him see what a giveaway is and how it effects those taking risk to increase the housing supply in the city.


    Great Leap Forward?

    Yes, let's emulate the top down planning that caused massive environmental degradation, forced internal migration, and the last great Chinese famine, which in turn led to the Cultural Revolution and the stagnation of the Chinese Economy for 20 years.

    I like this Billy Bragg quote paraphrased a bit "I Don't Want To Change The World, I'm just looking for a better Boston."


    The reality:

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    Not enough opportunities for graft!

    It's why all these supposed champions of the downtrodden seem to get richer every decade while those they supposedly help remain just as poor if not poorer.


    And what if that city policy is failing?

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    Boston is becoming Manhattanized. the supply of housing for people who are not either Eurorich investors looking for a place to sock away some loose change or for people who are too poor to ever hope for a place of their own is not keeping up with demand. When even a place like Roslindale is becoming too expensive for the middle class, you know you're dealing with an increasingly lost cause.

    You might enjoy a city that, like Manhattan, consists of the superrich and the poor. I say God love Mel King for trying to get more than just the bare minimum that city policy is failing to provide.

    Do you know how long he's lived in his home? I know he's been around long enough that he lived in the South End when it was far from the chic little enclave it is today.


    Hell yeah Adam.

    In the 1970s, Mel's neighborhood was a quasi waste land.

    I was friends with a family lead by a Suffolk Law professor who got a brownstone dirt cheap on Columbus Ave and moved there to escape his wife who was comfortable over in Newton

    The pianist Lowell Davidson lived around the corner.

    I must say, your collection of snarling malcontents in some rush to pump their imaginary status by slagging others they don't likely know is pretty impressive.

    Must suck to be them.


    You've obviously never been

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    You've obviously never been to Mel King's home. As someone who has been fortunate to have been invited in a few times, I can assure you: it is extremely modest, and extremely welcoming. Probably even to a commenter like you.


    Lack of affordable housing not the issue

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    Roxbury is pretty well all set with affordable housing. What community leaders in our part of the neighborhood would rather see is opportunities for home ownership and wealth building.

    Maybe you'd have to live here to know that, though.

    Great for learning about life

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    I hope this urban farm employs kids. I believe that the experience of growing vegetables, from germinated seed to killing frost will give them practice in some of the most important lessons in life. Anyone who has grown vegetables knows it requires perseverance, patience, understanding how complex growing food is, and that there are failures and successes. I also believe that knowing one has grown food is incredibly empowering.

    Food is primal but we sublimate that instinct by relying upon magically produced food that somehow appears in supermarkets or worse, is magically made by food wizards in places that exist only on labels. But by farming a kid can connect with one of the most basic needs of human existence: sustenance. I believe that connecting with a fundamental aspect of our humanity can provide great rewards in wisdom and maturity. By giving kids a chance to connect with the actual creation of food - from seedling to flower through the process of ripening and ultimately eating - kids are given the opportunity to make connections with themselves as human beings that can not happen in just picking up a couple of tomatoes in a store. Gangs are successful because they connect to primal needs of relationship and community (regardless of the extreme dysfunctionality and violence). Perhaps engaging - in a health way - an equally primal and fundamentally vital aspect of self - eating - can offer for a few kids a vision that can help lead away from gang life and toward a better life in general.

    This makes me think of the recent re-realization that spending time in forests or just parks, or just being outdoors where there is grass and trees has measurable positive impact on individuals' physical and mental health. I can easily believe that working at a farm - urban or rural - can have the same positive effects.

    The 19th C city planners knew a piece of genius that over the years was lost: that parks are vital to the mental and physical health of city residents. City governments let parks deteriorate to the point where private organizations have to pick up the slack. Hopefully urban farms will help recreate some of that genius about urban living by increasing the opportunities that people - especially children - can benefit and be formed by exposure to something as positive to body and mind as is growing food.


    So true!

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    What a wonderful post; I too hope that Boston's kids get a chance to be involved in the growing and harvest processes at these gardens. What a wonderful way to keep kids outside, occupied, productive and learning life skills. This would be a perfect Boston Summer Jobs program; especially if there was also a farmer's market component where kids were able to sell some of the produce they'd grown. Imagine something that multi-tiered on a college or job application!


    City Farming and housing....

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    This project will be employing kids and, if they are interested, guaranteeing them a job doing what they learned and paying them a living wage.
    Enough already building housing on every single piece of dirt they can find! In Mission Hill back and front yards are disappearing so a developer can expand a piece of land and it's not only for profit developers doing this it's happening for affordable housing too! I say leave some green space in our neighborhoods for playing and planting!


    Better than Nothing

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    To be honest, I think this might ad a good vibe to the neighborhood. I live in the neighborhood and the amount of vacant lots in which affordable housing could be built on is not something that is lacking in this area. Harold street is known for crime, the whole area is a red zone. I have been wondering ever since I moved here when something like this would happen, not when affordable housing would be built because of all of the construction sites nearby that are exactly for that reason. Harold street needs a clean up, plain and simple. If you lived in the neighborhood and were afraid to walk your dog at night, you would think so, too. I've never been one to bash the building of affordable housing, it's an incredible idea and something we need more of but I think it would be better in areas like JP that have been completely gentrified. Also, building affordable housing costs a lot more money than building a small farm land. Investors are needed, signatures, lotteries for tenants, a lot of politics involved. Instead of bashing Mel, you should be happy the area is getting something nice to look at to keep our minds off of the crime. Not saying the crime will stop, just to clarify.

    In terms of profits, they should be used to making the area a safer place to live in, and also a certain amount of food should be free to the people in need in the neighborhood. The vacant lots are filled with eye sores, weeds as tall as 6 feet, trash,
    And God only knows what else.


    What if

    ..this soulless money grubbing steam roller thingie Boston has been running since it figured out Volker is no longer running the Fed has had a horrid impact on the poor people it avidly mushes?

    And what if this estrangement from the simple basics of living drives these castaway stomped sorts crazy and they get violent and constantly agitated?

    This is a theory I run into.

    The re-connection with living natural forces might be therapeutic to those who aren't in on the money grubbing rush to make dust of em?

    The 80 something guy I know who spent the past 20 years of his life negotiating 200 miles of trail into existence is a cool patrician who figures this might help those souls.

    Mel does too.

    The patrician wants me to bring these options to the attention of those who may benefit from them..

    This idea goes back to Rousseau or something.

    Maybe it's hogwash but trying to find out sure beats being a dick.