Community Philosphy Blog and Library

Posts Tagged ‘boston’

HOMEGROWN Life: Visions of Urban Agriculture

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012






Call me nerdy, but I think planning and zoning is fascinating. Give me a project proposal or zoning code, and I gladly immerse myself in land use regulations, zoning jargon and mapping.  So when the Boston Redevelopment Authority and the Mayor’s office held a kickoff and visioning meeting to rezone Boston for urban agriculture on Monday night, I was sitting front row, pencil in hand!

Image courtesy of City Farmer News

Boston is not new to agriculture. The Boston Common was used from 1634-1830 as a public livestock grazing pasture. The city has the highest number of community gardens per capita; 150 gardens throughout the city in which 3,000 members grow. There are currently 6 urban agriculture projects in Boston, and farmers’ markets in every neighborhood. A new pilot rezoning projectapproved last year by the city leases two parcels of land in South Dorchester to be farmed by local organizations.

But, this rezoning project is critical to the future of the local food system in Boston.  As it stands now, the current Zoning Code details 3 (basic) types of land uses for Boston:

  • Allowed by right use: A land use that is permitted as a matter of right. Board of Appeal approval is not required.
  • Conditional use: A land use permitted by the Zoning Code provided that it is found by the Board of Appeal to comply with certain conditions set out in the Code
  • Forbidden use: A use that is not permitted in a particular district because of harmful impacts on other allowed uses; e.g., noise, pollution.

However, as I learned Monday night, if a particular use is not expressly mentioned in the Zoning Code, it is, by default, forbidden.  This applies to most agricultural land uses. In order for urban agriculture – the use of a parcel of land to cultivate food and other products with the intent of sale – to thrive, the Code must be revised.

Map courtesy of Boston Redevelopment Authority Pilot Urban Agriculture Project

As urban environments, like Boston, seek to become more sustainable, food and agriculture will play an increasingly critical role. I am excited to see my city take the first steps in becoming greener and creating a local food system. The expansion of urban agriculture in Boston will have profoundly positive effects on the city. A new chapter in the Code will increase residents’ access to local, fresh food, it will provide new economic opportunities to grow and sell food products, it will expand educational programs about healthy eating and agriculture for local youth, and it will utilize vacant lots and empty spaces in a sustainable and beneficial way.

At the meeting I was pleased to see a diverse group of Boston residents present, asking question, and providing their own visions for the future of urban agriculture. Mayor Menino voiced his enthusiastic commitment for agriculture and urban farmer and founder of Growing PowerWill Allen, the man who transformed Milwaukee into an thriving agricultural city, gave an inspiring presentation about possibilities for growth in Boston.  The meeting wrapped up with a spirited roundtable discussion and thoughtful comments from residents that left me energized for an urban agriculture revolution in Boston!

Even though this rezoning and planning is in it’s infantile stages, and I’m sure at some point this year-long process may become arduous, the prospects urban agriculture holds for Boston will be worth it.  Beekeeping, backyard chickens, and farms in my neighborhood? Let’s get started!

Photo Credit: Linda N., Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License


I am the Flock-Tender here on I am keeping a chronicle of my experiences learning, living, and growing a homegrown lifestyle fresh out of college.

The Boston Tree Party

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Our incredibly industrious and creative friend Lisa Gross has a new project that we think is just the coolest. Lisa founded the Urban Homesteaders League and held skillshares under her Market Stand tent at a local farmers market last summer.

Here’s more about the Boston Tree Party:


“The Boston Tree Party is a collaborative campaign to plant 100 pairs of heirloom apple trees in publicly used spaces across Greater Boston. The tree plantings will take place in partnership with a diverse range of institutions, organizations, businesses, and communities.

As an urban agriculture project, the campaign will create vital gathering places, build community connections, and improve community health. As a conceptual art project, the Boston Tree Party engages with metaphor and symbolism, and playfully reimagines patriotic and political language, imagery, and forms of association.

Like the Boston Tea Party, the Boston Tree Party is a symbolic political act. The project takes a stand for universal access to fresh, healthy food; for greening our cities; cleaning our air and waterways; reducing our city’s carbon footprint; creating habitat for urban wildlife; and for protecting the biodiversity and heritage of our food. Collectively, the 200 apple trees will become a decentralized public urban orchard that crosses social, economic, political, and geographic boundaries.

The apple has a long and deep connection to the history of Boston. The first apple orchard in the American Colonies was planted by William Blackstone on Beacon Hill in 1623. The oldest variety of apple in the United States, the Roxbury Russet, was developed in Roxbury in the 1630s. The Boston Tree Party will celebrate and recontextualize this history and make Boston a city of apples once again.

Participating Tree Party Delegations (e.g. schools, hospitals, universities, faith communities, businesses, non-profit organizations, and other community groups) will each receive a Tree Party Kit that will allow them to design and create their own festive Tree Planting Parties. Each community will be asked to make a contribution of $300 to the Party (the materials cost of the kit). Funding assistance will be available, but we ask that each community make a minimum contribution of $50. The planting campaign will kickoff on April 10th on the Rose Kennedy Greenway with the Boston Tree Party Inauguration—a rally, parade, and celebratory planting of the first pair of trees, and it will culminate on May 14th at the Old South Meeting House with the Boston Tree Party Convention—an opportunity for participants to celebrate the project, form new connections, and get inspired.

The Apple Corps, a Youth Corps developed in partnership with YouthBuild Boston, will be trained in organic fruit tree care and horticulture and will act as an “extension service” for participating Delegations. The Apple Alliance (a partnership between the Boston Natural Areas Network, City Sprouts, Groundwork Somerville, and the Northeast Organic Farming Association/Mass) will offer free and low-cost organic fruit tree workshops all over the city.

The goal of the Boston Tree Party is to catalyze a movement—a movement that works across boundaries to make healthy, fresh food accessible to all; a movement to green our cities; a movement that plants fruit trees in public spaces all over the country; and a movement that comes together to care for these trees and the well-being of all citizens.

We have many phenomenal partners in this endeavor. Please check out the list below.

“Civic Fruit” is our motto. We call for fruit trees in civic spaces, and we promote the fruits of civic engagement!

There are many exciting ways to participate in and support the project:

  • Spearhead the formation of a Tree Planting Delegation at your place of work, faith community, school, or neighborhood! (For this spring we’re focused on the Greater Boston Area, but there is some discussion of a National Tree Party…stay tuned.)
  • Volunteer! We need lots of help in lots of ways!
  • Join us at the Inauguration and/or Convention!
  • Follow the project on the blog.
  • Become a fan on Facebook.
  • Follow us on Twitter.
  • Help us spread the word to your friends and colleagues!”

Here’s more from on the project.

HOMEGROWN Life: The cantankerous Steve “The Farmer” Parker

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010






Hello all you simple minded people out there!
For those of you that don’t know me, please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Steve “The Farmer” Parker. I include “The Farmer” part because that is what people inevitably end up calling me, along with a whole host of other less savory names.

I grow about 35 acres of vegetables out here in Lunenburg,Mass, a small town located about 40 miles outside of downtown Boston. Being so close to town allows me to direct market all of my crops at retail at the Central Square, Cambridge and Union Square, Somerville farmers markets, as well as through my 200 member CSA.

I am a bit tired right now, being about halfway into the season, so I am going to keep this very limited. I am a single Dad, having my 5 year old son, Stephen, Jr. half time, and I am trying to keep tabs on him as I write this.
Other quick facts about me:

  • I have been farming for 19 years.
  • I play guitar and sing in a band,”Steve the Farmer and The Murder Balladeers”. We are quite bad.
  • My favorite ex-girlfriend story as of late has been about one who called me and told me “I went to see my therapist to talk about your drinking. She says you’re an alcoholic because you drink enough to get to sleep, and then you wake up early because the alcohol wears off”, to which I replied: “well, lets see…I have three drinks a night and am getting 5-6 hours sleep, I think I will have 4 so I can get 8”. We promptly broke up.
  • I dont care what anyone thinks, my beer of choice is Bud (cans, of course).

All right all, time to sleep!

More about Steve: “Common Ground: The Farmer and the Musician“. Parker Farm’s Facebook page is here.


Steve Parker, Parker Farm

I grow vegetables on 35-acres in Lunenberg, MA. My farm – Parker Farm – has been operating for 19 years and, if it doesn’t kill me, I’m planning to farm this land for many years to come.