Back to top
Urban farming in the City

Urban farming in the City

Learn more about how the Office of Food Initiatives supports farming in Boston.

URBAN AGRICULTURE

Urban farming gives residents better access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. It also cuts down on transportation costs and carbon emissions. The City passed Article 89 in 2013 to support commercial urban farming in the City. Our goal is to bring communities and small businesses together through farming and to give residents easy access to fresh food.

WHAT WE DO

Our department helps residents turn land into urban farms. This is important in low-income neighborhoods where people don't always have access to affordable food.

Boston Urban Ag Visioning Process brings together organizations to create a City-wide plan for food production and distribution. We want to create jobs for farmers and make it easy for residents to buy farm-fresh food. The project brings together many parts of the urban farming community, including:

  • community gardeners
  • traditional farmers
  • edible forest developers, and
  • rooftop farmers.

Learn more about the project grant and what we plan to do.

How to start a farm

The first step is to find a plot of land or rooftop that will work for farming. We recommend creating a business plan to help you prepare for the steps ahead. You also need to get permits and follow certain regulations.

Projects around Boston

Community Gardens

There are more than 200 community gardens over 50 acres of Boston. There are gardens in every neighborhood and more than 10,000 gardeners across the City.

Community gardening is a great way to learn about growing food and caring for the land. 

Urban Orchards

There are multiple urban orchards in Boston bearing fruit like apples, peaches, cherries, and berries

School Gardens

More than 100 Boston public schools have gardens for educational purposes.

School gardens teach math, nutrition, language arts, and science, and provide students with healthy lunch menu options. School gardens are supported by the Food Corps Volunteers.

Rooftop Farming

The Higher Ground Farm is a new rooftop farm on top of the Design Center.

Public Fishing

There are more than 20 areas where the public can fish in ponds, rivers, or along the oceanfront. Check the fishing permitting and regulations before you go.

Urban farming programs

Urban farming programs

PROGRAM

DESCRIPTION

Urban Agriculture Program The MDAR grant supports community scale farming initiatives.

SARE Farmer Grant

The grant is for commercial farmers who have a new idea that they want to test. All projects should benefit other farmers and work to make farming more sustainable.

USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program

The program offers grants to improve competitiveness of fruits, vegetables, and other specialty crops.

Natural Resources Conservation Services and Conservation Innovation Grants

The grants are for people who want to adopt new ways to conserve resources while they farm.

Matching Enterprise Grants for Agriculture Program

The program helps new farmers with startup or expansion costs. They also help with business plans and financial aid for equipment and other needs.

APR Improvement Program

The program aims to improve the production and viability of farming on protected land.

Farm Energy Discount Program

You can get a 10 percent discount on natural gas and electricity through the program. You need to work in production farming. You may have to get certified by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.

PROGRAM

DESCRIPTION

USDA Microloan for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers

If you run a startup farm or ranch business, you may qualify.

Carrot Project

The project offers loans for small farms from $3,000-$35,000.

Accion

The program gives small business loans to people who can't borrow from the bank.

Brewing the American Dream Fund

You can get loans for a small food and brewing related business.

MA Growth Capital Corporation

For information, call Jose Luis “Pepe” Rojas at 617-337-2815.

The program connects entrepreneurs with micro lenders. There’s a program for loans over $100,000.

Sprout Lenders

The investment club allows lenders to pool their funds. The club offers up to $5,000 in startup loans.

Cooperative Fund of New England

The fund gives loans to nonprofit co-ops, employee-owned businesses, co-housing developments, and community land trusts.

Fair Food Fund Northeast

The fund offers loans, royalty financing, and equity capital to food growing businesses.

Shade Fund

Entrepreneurs who want to use natural resources in a responsible way can get loans of up to $50,000.

PROGRAM

DESCRIPTION

For general information about land purchases, you can email William Epperson at william.epperson@boston.gov.

There are many vacant areas around the City that offer opportunities for farmers. Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan are priority areas.

Check out our list of farming opportunity locations.

New England Farmland Finder

The program connects farm seekers and property owners in New England.

New England Small Farm Institute and New England Land Link

Farmers can get help located and transferring farms in New England.

Tufts New Entry Sustainable Farming Project and Farmland Matching Service

The program helps qualified beginner farmers and growers find land.

Land for Good Program

Farmers can find land and take part in training programs.

Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Research and Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program

The program pays farmland owners in exchange for deed restrictions. This protects the land from developments that affect farming.

PROGRAM

DESCRIPTION

Eastern Massachusetts Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training

Beginner farmers can find training programs. There’s also a network of farmers who share ideas and information.

Beginning Farmer Network of Massachusetts

The collaborative project offers training, networking, and support.

Worcester Roots Project

The project gives free soil testing and safety materials to new farmers.

Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture

The program works to connect farmers and communities.

Marketing Manual from the Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture

This guide can help farmers develop marketing plans.

Northeast Organic Farming Association of Massachusetts

The community of farmers, gardeners, landscapers, and consumers works to educate the public on organic farming.

Community Food Security Coalition

The email list is for people interested in community food security.

PROGRAM

DESCRIPTION

Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources Agricultural Business Training Program

The five-session course is for farmers who have been operating for two or more years. There’s also training for expansion.

Massachusetts Farmer Viability Enhancement Program

The program helps new farms develop growth plans. You need at least five acres of land and to have been farming for three or more years.

Massachusetts Small Business Development Center Network

The network offers free services to help with business growth strategies, financing, and analysis.

Tufts New Entry Sustainable Farming Project Farm Business Planning

New and potential farmers can get help developing business plans.