The rooftop farm perched on top of Boston Medical Center (BMC) is poised for a record-breaking year and this is the time of year that the harvest is at its fullest. The farm is constructed of 2,300 milk crates filled with a special growing mix and outfitted with an irrigation system. More than 25 different crops are grown on the farm, and over the past two years, the farm has been growing more and more produce.
“It’s in full grow-and-harvest mode! We’re on our way to surpassing what was grown last season,” says Tim Viall, marketing pro at BMC.
Last season, the yield was 5,300 pounds of produce. The hospital uses the farm and its bounty in several different ways. Viall broke down, by the numbers, where the produce has been going to date:
- 1,773 pounds to the hospital’s kitchens, providing produce for both retail and patient dining;
- 1,591 pounds to BMC’s Preventive Food Pantry, a program to keep patients healthy with nutritious food to take home;
- 873 pounds to the farmers’ market that’s hosted in BMC’s cafeterias where staff members, patients and visitors can buy bundles of produce for just one dollar; and
- 188 pounds to BMC’s Teaching Kitchen, a hub for cooking demos and nutrition classes that work in conjunction with the food pantry to teach patients how to cook healthy meals with the food they receive from the pantry.
The farm, pantry and teaching kitchen make up “the trifecta” for food assistance and nutrition education at BMC, what the hospital calls the Nourishing Our Community initiative. As harvest mode continues, the farm team is planning ahead for more ways to maximize the positive energy of the farm and help other hospitals to do the same.
New this year, BMC hosted a few open-to-the-public tours of the farm, one which included a container gardening class where participants left with everything they need to grow food at home. Viall hopes BMC can offer more events like this, and also to share best practices with other hospitals looking to release their inner farmer.
“Our farm team has been in contact with hospitals in locations such as Washington state, Alaska, Puerto Rico and Mexico, who are eager to learn more about how they could replicate BMC’s model in their own communities,” Viall says. “Educating the local BMC and Boston community—but also other hospitals across the country—on the concepts of rooftop farming and ‘food as medicine’ will continue to be a goal.”