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The design for this open inner-city site envisions a new productive urban farm and includes innovative solutions for challenges that include exposed bedrock, potential soil contamination, and steep slopes.

Tommy’s Rock Urban Farm, Roxbury, MA

As part of the their work to transform vacant lots into commercial urban farms and provide access to land for urban farmers, the Trust for Public Land invited Regenerative Design Group to design a greenhouse and ground-level urban farm in the Roxbury neighborhood of Dorchester. This collaborative project also includes Dudley Neighbors, Inc. and the Urban Farming Institute, who will ultimately manage, and farm on, the site.

The overall goal for this project is to create a commercial farm with opportunities for local distribution, education and and neighborhood involvement. The design includes a greenhouse, an annual production area, and a community gardening space on two adjacent vacant lots. The designs have been generated through a public participatory design process with a neighborhood association that has been working for several years to realize this project, and at-large community members.

The vacant lots in Roxbury posed several challenges that required creative and innovative solutions. Access for farm vehicles and visitor traffic was carefully considered in the context of this high-density urban neighborhood, and extensive soil analyses were conducted to investigate potential soil contamination that would affect the end quality of food produced on-site. Exposed bedrock and significant grade changes created challenges for stormwater infiltration, soil stability, and universal access. RDG’s solutions included integrating above-ground rainwater capture, utilizing living slope stabilization methods, and the careful design of paths and walkways.

Key Features

  • Four-season greenhouse
  • Hedgerows for screening, wildlife habitat, and production
  • Annual and perennial production space
  • Integration of exposed bedrock into community space
  • Parking for farm vehicles and visitors
  • Soil barriers to contain contamination
  • Regenerative soil practices in non-contaminated areas

Services Provided

  • Coordination between multiple organizations and stakeholders
  • Public workshops and community meetings
  • Site analyses
  • Zoning and permitting
  • Detailed planting plans
  • Construction documents
  • Construction oversight

 As the momentum around greening cities, increasing health outcomes, and developing more sustainable solutions for urban economic development, urban farming is quickly emerging into a viable industry solution. This emerging industry can help to promote and support innovative approaches that address economic disparity, particularly in lower income neighborhoods.

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