In First-Of-Its-Kind Report, CLF and CLF Ventures Document the Potential of Sustainable Urban Agriculture in Boston And Across the Region | Conservation Law Foundation

In First-Of-Its-Kind Report, CLF and CLF Ventures Document the Potential of Sustainable Urban Agriculture in Boston And Across the Region

Ben Carmichael Ben Carmichael

50 Acres of Farms In Boston Would Produce Jobs While Making City Healthier And More Environmentally Sustainable

Ben Carmichael, Senior Communications Manager: 617.850.1743

Melissa Hoffer, VP & Director, HCEJ: 617.850.1710
Jo Anne Shatkin, President & CEO, CLF Ventures: 508.612.8807

Boston, MA July 12, 2012 – Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) and consulting affiliate CLF Ventures have released a report that, for the first time, details the economic development potential for urban agriculture in Greater Boston, assesses its environmental and health co-benefits, and examines current market and policy barriers to expanded food production in Greater Boston. The report’s findings confirm that urban agriculture can play an important role in creating a more livable, carbon resilient, healthier, economically vibrant, and environmentally sustainable city—if we put smart policies in place and encourage the market for Boston grown produce.

Find a copy of the report here:
Find an infographic detailing the report here:

The City of Boston has taken important steps over the past two years to advance urban agriculture, and new businesses are taking root, including City Growers, a Mattapan-based farming business that is featured in this report. There is a palpable sense of excitement about the potential of this new urban vision for agriculture for communities; possibilities abound. But CLF and CLF Ventures believe it is more than possible— it is a necessity, and an urgent one at that as we face the challenges of climate change, an obesity epidemic, lack of availability of healthy foods in many communities, and a fragile economy.

“Boston is ideally positioned to play a lead role in building a vision for a New England regional food system,” said Melissa Hoffer, VP & Director, Healthy Communities & Environmental Justice. “Boston is emerging as a national leader in urban agriculture innovation, and can be a voice for the benefits of urban agriculture and help support the market for regionally grown food as one of the region’s largest consumers.  This report outlines key policy opportunities that would help urban agriculture businesses to bloom in Boston.”

The report found that converting as little as 50 acres of vacant or underutilized land around Boston into agricultural production would spur job creation, improve access to healthy, local, fresh food, and reduce environmental harms. Key findings of the report include:

  • Land is available. 50 acres – an area the size of Boston Common – is a small portion of the vacant or underutilized land available in Boston.
  • Urban farms would stimulate the economy by creating jobs. 50 acres of urban agriculture in Boston will likely generate at least 130 direct farming jobs and may generate over 200 jobs depending on actual business characteristics and revenue.
  • Healthy, local and affordable food. 50 acres in agricultural production would provide enough fresh produce to feed over 3,600 people over a six-month retail season. If the produce is used to prepare healthy school lunches in Boston Public Schools, 50 acres could provide more than one serving of fresh produce for each lunch served to a student eligible for free or reduced school lunch over a six month period. If 800 acres of potentially available City-owned land were put into agricultural production, the food needs of approximately 10 percent of Boston’s total population could be fully satisfied during a six-month retail season.
  • Significant environmental impacts. Urban agriculture in Boston will result in a net reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 50 acres of properly managed soils would sequester about 114 tons of cabon dioxide (CO2) per year and may result in an additional CO2 reduction of up to 4,700 tons per year.
  • Community adaptation. No less than 6,000 new temperature records were set during the recent March 2012 heat wave, and more than 40,000 have been set for the year-to-date. Meanwhile, the July 2011-June 2012 period was the warmest 12-month period of any 12-months on record for the contiguous U.S., with the first half of 2012 being the hottest ever recorded. The International Energy Agency’s recent projection of a 10.8 degree F temperature increase over pre-industrial levels by the end of this century underscores the fact that a more decentralized food system will be necessary to enable our communities to better adapt to changing climate conditions, including the impacts of more frequent severe weather. Urban agriculture is a part of this solution.

“It’s clear that even 50 acres of sustainable agriculture on available land would be an economic stimulus and environmental resource for Boston,” said Jo Anne Shatkin, CLF Ventures, the consulting arm of CLF. “While we focused on a 50 acre test scenario, these conclusions are scalable across New England. Imagine how vibrant New England would be like with a robust and sustainable regional food system.”

In addition to the potential benefits, the report also considers the policy and market barriers to fully realizing the potential of urban agriculture, examining the ways in which promoting urban agriculture will require City and Commonwealth involvement and key needs for such involvement. Such barriers include the need for policies that provide affordable access to land, one of the key market barriers for both new and experienced farmers; strategies to reduce the risks associated with the Commonwealth’s hazardous material cleanup law; improved access to high quality compost; and better financing options to overcoming prohibitive capital and operating costs, amongst other findings.

“The research that CLF and CLF Ventures provides helps educate and  inform that conversation and empowers us all – city officials , farming advocates, and neighborhood residents – to be as effective as possible in the process of greenovating environmental and social sustainability for Boston,” said Edith Murnane, Director of Food Initiatives, Office of the Mayor, City of Boston. “We’re excited about the opportunities that Urban Agriculture can provide in the ongoing process to actively engage all our constituents, and to create meaningful change in the life of the city.”

The report features one of the businesses that has flourished following the City of Boston’s important work to encourage urban agriculture: City Growers of Mattapan, MA, owned by Glynn Lloyd and Margaret Connors. When Lloyd and Connors look around the neighborhoods of Boston, they see potential on every street corner. In their vision, small parcels of vacant or underutilized land can become productive pieces of land, providing jobs for community residents and food for families.

“This report makes an important contribution to supporting what is the essence of City Growers’ model: the creation of a new industry here in Boston that is green,  self-sustainable and profitable,” said Margaret Connors of City Growers. “This report affirmatively answers the question: Can urban agriculture become a viable business in the pursuit of a resilient food system?”  It clearly demonstrates the potential for Boston to assume a leadership role, local food businesses to grow, and for people to access quality food in the very communities where they live and work.

This report examines how City Growers and other businesses like it can scale their model throughout Boston and elsewhere. For example, Mattapan has an approximate population of 37,600. The food produced from the 50 acres in urban farm production would fully serve about 10 percent of Mattapan residents during the six-month retail season or provide approximately 160 servings per resident during the same period.
Additional resources:

Find a copy of the report here:
Find an infographic detailing the report here:
To read more about CLF’s Farm & Food Initiative, click here:

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