At the end of October, Mayor Marty Walsh announced that Boston is the recipient of a hefty $25,000 grant to support urban agriculture in the city. Certainly intended to build upon the legislation championed by the late Mayor Tom Menino, the grant also follows suit with an app created in by the team of the City of Boston, the Mayor’s Office of Food Initiatives, Fathom Information Design and the Boston Redevelopment Authority to make it easier for residents to locate and engage with urban agriculture.
It was also supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Prototype Fund.
Aptly called urb.ag, the platform provides a simple segue for people interested in all things Boston urban agriculture – zoning information, locations, specific communities and insight into the individuals leading the charge. It’ll also provide information for upstart famers on how to go about planting their seeds within city limits and subsequent best practices.
“Between soil plants, hydroponics, aquaponics, commercial composting, or the keeping of honeybees and hens, urb.ag is an educational resource that shows how we can bring farming back to the city,” Fathom project lead Alex Geller told me in an email.
Geller, along with fellow project lead Terrence Fradet, added that the concept of urb.ag originated when Mayor Menino took to Twitter and proposed Boston bring back urban agriculture and fold it into the fabric of the city’s affinity for green initiatives and, equally important, the economics of small business.
Article 89 of Boston’s zoning code was adopted in December 2013, just as the beloved 20-year mayor was transitioning out of City Hall life, creating a framework for how urban agriculture could be cultivated to the benefit of us all.
“We were intrigued and wanted to support the initiative,” added Geller.
In essence, urb.ag not only provides a user or farmer with the appropriate information on how to get started, but also condenses it into easily digestible language so that they need no longer sift through mounds of legal jargon. And, as Geller pointed out, it may help to connect contemporary, high-tech Boston with its traditional farm-centric roots.
Boston was, after all, initially settled as farmland. And, of course, there’s the longstanding myth that the streets of Boston overlay old time cowpaths which they’d use during times of grazing.
“By simplifying the complex process of beginning a commercial urban farm in the city, the app will help farming enthusiasts build communities around locally grown food,” continued Geller. “There are a number of amazing initiatives around the city focused on making Boston a greener, healthier, and more sustainable urban environment.”
Geller, Fradet and their team of farming proponents will be analyzing any and all data yielded by urb.ag before making any alterations to the app or charting a new course as to where to take it. In the meantime, they’re also working on a visualization project that depicts how diets across the globe have evolved over the past 50 years, on a country-by-country basis and on a worldwide scale.