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A Farm Grows On Fenway

Green City Growers in Somerville, Massachusetts started out in 2008 installing raised bed gardens for residences in Boston and surrounding communities. It branched out into employee wellness gardens after receiving a request for an installation from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. “Then we were contacted by b. good, a healthy fast food restaurant company in the Boston area,” recalls Jessie Banhazl, founder of Green City Growers. “The company had three restaurant locations and wanted to install gardens at all of them. Today, b.good has 14 locations and we’ve put in gardens at 12 of them. What started out as a residential focus has evolved to servicing the commercial and institutional sectors, including grocery stores, hospitals, schools, senior centers, camps and more.”

One of its most recent installations is a 5,000 sq ft rooftop organic farm at the Boston Red Sox’s Fenway Park baseball stadium. Located on the roof of the Front Office on the third base side on the EMC Level, fans can view Fenway Farms from within the park. “Fenway Farms was meant to be,” explains Banhazl. “Linda Henry, who manages the John Henry Foundation [Red Sox owner John Henry’s wife], has always had a very strong focus on youth education and sustainability. There was a large, unused roof top area at Fenway Park, on the same level as the EMC Club, and Linda, along with others in the Red Sox organization, came to the conclusion that having a rooftop farm would be the way to fill it.”

Recover Green Roofs did the installation of the rooftop farm, working with structural engineers to design a system within the structural load constraints of the building while resisting environmental pressures such as wind uplift. Additional design features ensure waterproof protection and drainage. Recover Green Roofs put in a 1,750 sq ft planting area in Spring 2015, using milk crates filled with Vermont Compost Company’s Fort Light Blend that was developed for growers who want a compost-based soil mix with the handling and watering characteristics of a peat-perlite mix. “It is great soil,” exclaims Banhazl. “We have been having incredible production. It’s only the beginning of June and we’ve already harvested over 1,100 lbs this season.” A smart irrigation system minimizes water use. Urban farmers from Green City Growers maintain Fenway Farms, often during Red Sox games. The produce is used in the EMC Club and in a cafeteria for the media and employees. Fenway Park chefs work with Banhazl on what is planted. “Everything we pick, we pick in conjunction with the chefs,” she says.

Compost has always been a staple in the soil media used by Green City Growers. The company typically custom blends an organic soil mix comprised of 25% compost (from Brick Ends Farm in South Hamilton, MA); 25% topsoil; 25% peat and 25% vermiculite. At Fenway Park, Green City Growers is paid a service fee to provide materials, maintenance, harvesting and upkeep of the farm. Banhazl estimates that about 4,000 lbs of produce will be grown in 2015. “The spring and summer growing season lines up perfectly with the baseball season,” she notes. The spring plant included herbs, various salad greens, snap peas, spinach and carrots. The summer plant includes broccoli, cucumbers, eggplant, and a variety of hot and sweet peppers and greens.  —  Nora Goldstein