Case Study: Boston Urban Farm Retailing Ordinance

urban farming

While urban farming was catching on in many cities, changes to a Boston ordinance — Article 89 — allowed urban farmers to sell direct.

BOSTON — Originally published June 4, 2014 — Boston officials passed legislation to accommodate a comprehensive transactional urban agriculture system to provide healthy, locally-sourced food in low-income neighborhoods. The law helps farmers grow and sell their produce within the city.

Boston residents had been pushing lawmakers to support urban farming legislation to increase accessibility of healthy produce to low-income neighborhoods. In response, the city passed Article 89 and the mayor signed it into law. Prior to the passing of Article 89, farmers were not permitted to sell the goods derived from city gardens. Likewise, local restaurants could not buy from farmers within city limits. The legislation expanded changes to the city’s zoning code that supported community gardens to also allow for urban farms.

Not only did Article 89 lift restrictions on growing and selling produce within Boston, but it also detailed all the steps farmers must take to properly build an urban farm and launch a local business in line with other city laws to avoid fines or penalties. It provides farmers the guidance they may need to translate growing practices into an urban environment, such as apartment building rooftops.

Furthermore, Boston officials identified city-owned pieces of land that would be suitable for farming as well as seeking out proposals from farmers interested in setting up a farm in the city. Farmers will be able to purchase up to 6,000 square feet plots of land for $100 to get their farms up and running, so long as the land is used for farming for the next 50 years.

Thus, Article 89 not only eliminated barriers to urban farming immediately, but set up requirements to ensure long-term sustainability of projects that address communities in need.

Urban Farms Sprouting
Many major cities have embraced urban farming initiatives, including Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City. In the Big Apple, Gotham Greens launched with the goal of enabling urban farmers and providing the community with organic, pesticide-free vegetables. The group leverages advanced technology to create a climate-controlled, greenhouse environment where produce can be grown year-round despite the New York City climate. Because their urban farms are not located on open rooftops victims to weather fluctuations, Gotham Greens produce is available year-round.

Gotham Greens has several locations throughout New York City. One 20,000 square foot space atop a Whole Foods in Brooklyn reportedly harvests 200 tons of organic produce annually. The facility utilizes hydroponic technology to provide plants with nutrients through a water supply, rather than soil. Through hydroponics, Gotham Greens is able to bypass the need for green space to support urban farming, instead focus on a water-efficient form of agriculture using recycled water to grow produce. Hydroponics offer a solution to problems plaguing farmlands across the country – such as drought and extreme temperatures – that are shrinking harvests and driving up fresh food costs.

City-Grown Goodness
EfficientGov has reported on a variety of urban farming initiatives, many of which start with simple adjustments to city zoning codes.



About the author


Barry Greenfield

Barry Greenfield is the founder of