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Urban farms expected to sprout in Roxbury by the fall

Posted by Patrick Rosso  March 11, 2014 03:47 PM

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Tomatoes and carrots could soon be sprouting from the soils of Roxbury.

On Monday night, a representative from the Trust for Public Lands was in front of Roxbury residents to explain his group’s plan to turn lots on Harold Street and Akron Street into commercial urban farms.

The land, which is owned by the city, would be sold to the trust as part of a Department of Neighborhood Development initiative to bring life to vacant properties, provide jobs, and increase access to healthy foods. The properties were advertised publicly and multiple applications for the parcels were received.

The Harold Street parcel includes two vacant lots located at 225 and 227 Harold St. The total area is about 12,699 square-feet and is valued at $79,500, according to the city’s Assessing Department.

The other parcel, located at 3 Akron St., is approximately 8,762 square feet and is valued at $65,700.

If the Trust for Public Lands is designated the developer of the properties, the city would transfer ownership of the parcels to the trust. The trust would then construct the basic infrastructure for the farms and then transfer ownership of the property to the Dudley Neighbors Incorporated, which would be the long-term owners. The land would them be leased by DNI to the Urban Farming Institute, which would be tasked with finding farmers for the property, according to Chris LaPointe, senior project manager for the Trust for Public Lands.

Although the exact layout of the farms has not been determined, they are likely to include some sort of low fencing, a shed, signs, water hookups, and compost pile. New soil, which would be tested regularly, will also be brought in for the farm’s plots.

The project is expected to utilize the newly minted Article 89 , which lays out the process of opening a farm in Boston and provides regulations to protect adjacent homeowners and consumers of the farm’s products.

A concrete timeline for the project has not been determined, but LaPointe said his group hopes to own the property by the end of May and have it permitted and ready to farm by the summer.

“We’re going to try to be moving as fast as we can, but we’re all going through a new thing together,” said LaPointe.

At Monday’s meeting, the 15 residents in the room expressed excitement for the projects.

“The collaboration with all the groups has been wonderful and it’s been a delight to see how well government can work, when it does work,” said Bette Toney, president of the Tommy’s Rock Neighborhood Association.

“I absolutely love the idea and it couldn’t be a better use of the land,” said Alyssa Aftosmes-Tobio, who recently moved to the neighborhood.

To read about the initial community meeting for Harold Street, click here.

To read about the initial community meeting for Akron Street, click here.

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Email Patrick D. Rosso, patrick.d.rosso@gmail.com. Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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