Brandeis Rooftop Farm: Growing a Community and Exploring Urban Agriculture

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The BRCF will be built on the Red Square roof on top of Gerstenzang.

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The BRCF will produce local vegetables such as kale and arugula.

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The BRCF will work closely with Green City Growers to obtain farm materials and help with farm knowledge.

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Many different student organizations at Brandeis will help with the BRCF.

Imagine a milk crate. Now add soil, seeds, water and sun. Multiply that by 850 and put it on the backdrop of the red square rooftop terrace between the science center buildings. As time passes, arugula, kale, broccoli and more start to bud and bring life to this otherwise deserted patio. However, more is growing than just vegetables. A community of Brandeis faculty, staff, students, and Waltham residents, is growing as well. The final product will be the Brandeis Rooftop Community Farm (BRCF); an image for the University that speaks for food justice, local agriculture and sustainability.


Logistics:
Our initiative is to create a 1,000 to 2,000 square foot Brandeis Rooftop Community Farm on the roof of Gerstenzang, otherwise known as “Red Square” made up of about 850 to 1,700 irrigated milk crates, growing local vegetables such as arugula, kale, broccoli, and spinach for the Brandeis community.


Involved Groups:
BRCF is a volunteer student-led initiative managed through several clubs and groups. The produce will be sold and donated through several different outlets.

Student Involvement from:
  • The Farmers Club (primary management)
  • Students for Environmental Action
  • Naturaliving
  • The Waltham Group
  • The Department of Community Living Common Cause “Sustainability” suite

 Faculty and staff Involvement:

  • Community Supported Agriculture program, faculty and staff volunteering time in exchange for produce

Places of Sale and Donation:

  • Sodexo (The Faculty Club)
  • Brandeis Farmer’s Market
  • Haven from Hunger- Peabody, MA
  • Local Waltham food pantries


Why create a green roof at Brandeis?
Green roofs-- rooftop spaces retrofitted with a vegetative layer-- can provide numerous environmental and monetary benefits to the Brandeis community such as:

  • Reduced energy use from green roof insulation
  • Enhanced storm-water management
  • Expanded habitat space
  • Improved human health
  • Reduced urban heat island effect
  • Enhanced roof life

Beyond these important environmental benefits, we hope that our green roof will initiate a discussion about how to best utilize and design space. Currently, the rooftop of Gerstenzang is an accessible, yet underutilized, space that we hope to transform into a community meeting place. We believe that green roofs are the future of new construction and we are proud to contribute to this growing movement by joining the 8.5 million square feet of rooftop space that has been converted into green roofs.
For more information, visit: http://www.epa.gov/heatisland/mitigation/greenroofs.htm


But why a rooftop farm?
By creating a rooftop farm rather than just a green roof we can tackle several different goals:

  • Increasing accessibility to healthy and local food for the Waltham community through the CSA program and food pantry donations
  • Reconnecting Brandeis students and the Waltham Community to their food system
  • Shifting consumption patterns to local food markets, thus minimizing the amount of fossil fuels used

This community effort will show how sustainable agriculture can be implemented in an urbanizing world.


What can you expect to see from the Brandeis Rooftop Farm in the future?
We hope to have a fully functioning rooftop farm by the end of the 2015 spring semester. Along with the Farmer’s Market initiative, we are forming a Farmer’s Club that will hopefully be active by spring semester. Join us to help choose vegetables and design our farm! If you want to become an essential member in our project, consider applying for a summer or school year Sustainability Common Cause community through the Department of Community Living or becoming a part of the Farm Club where you can collaborate with the new Brandeis Farmers Market, grow vegetables, and help work with Sodexo and local food pantries.
 
Interested in participating and receiving updates about our progress? Check out our website: BrandeisFarmers.com

News:
Front page of the Boston Globe Metro section (8/12/15): "Barren Brandeis rooftop transformed into feast for senses"
Article in BrandeisNOW (July 2, 2015): "New rooftop farm showcases Brandeis’ green thumb"
Article in The Hoot (March 31, 2015): "Farmer's Club Inspired to Open Garden on top of Gerstenzang"

Questions? Want to learn more about how you can shape BRCF? Contact us: rooftopfarm@brandeis.edu
Elizabeth Chalfin, Jenna Doherty, Jay Feinstein, Annie Fortnow, Allison Marill, and Jacob MacKay

Pictures courtesy of Green City Growers.