January 15, 2013

"Until recently, when I thought of the word “farm” I pictured, you know, a farm–grazing cows, big tractors, an old broken down barn, rows of tomatoes and eggplants, a gruff, ruddy-complexioned man in plaid shirt, scraggly beard, and mud-encased boots.  I never ever thought of concrete, bus exhaust, sealants, wind, or structural capacity. That is until I met Casey Townsend, a young and serious farmer, whose Northampton Square Rooftop Garden, NSRG, is on the top of a four-story parking garage wedged between Boston Medical Center (BMC), Boston Emergency Medical Services, and two residential high-rise towers. This 6,500 square foot parcel of tilled 14-inch deep soil is expected to yield 2500 pounds of strawberries, rhubarb, bunching onions, scallions, tomatoes, blueberries, cucumbers, zucchini, and lots of other vegetables—like daikon.

“I have never grown daikon as well on a land-based farm as I have on this roof,” said Townsend dressed in a black ski cap and green parka on a cold April day. “They came out about 14 inches long. They were gorgeous.” Townsend’s farm might be in the middle of Boston but his veggies think they are further south, say, in the zone of Providence, Rhode Island. “If the seed package says 45 days, I can grow it in 40,” he said. He plants his peppers and eggplant in concrete cubes and the residual heat comes off the roof and surrounding buildings creating a microclimate. This allows him to grow varieties that need more heat, like collards, and start them earlier in the season." Read more...