Big Green Mon­ster cukes? Rooftop gar­den thrives at Fen­way

The Progress-Index - At Home - - FENWAY FARMS - By Ro­drique Ngowi

BOS­TON — There’s more green at Fen­way Park than the in­field or the mon­ster wall.

The Red Sox are grow­ing veg­eta­bles and herbs in a rooftop gar­den. The pro­duce is used in food and cock­tails sold at the con­ces­sions, at nearby restau­rants and in the team’s flag­ship res­tau­rant that pre­pares meals for about 40,000 peo­ple dur­ing home games.

The 5,000-square-foot gar­den on the third-base side of Fen­way has turned a pre­vi­ously un­used part of the his­toric sta­dium into the largest of a hand­ful of farms that have sprouted up in Ma­jor League Base­ball sta­di­ums, said Chris Knight, man­ager of fa­cil­i­ties ser­vices and plan­ning for the Red Sox.

The sight of a lush, green gar­den on the third level of the sta­dium ex­cited Sox fan John Bunker, who re­cently trav­elled from his home in Palermo, Maine, to see the team in ac­tion and make a pil­grim­age to the rooftop farm.

“This is great be­cause although a lot of peo­ple love to come to Fen­way and eat a hot dog, some peo­ple don’t want to eat a hot dog, they want to eat some­thing else — maybe a salad or a wrap with veg­eta­bles in it,” Bunker said.

The gar­den is unique be­cause the crops are grown in milk crates, which make it pos­si­ble to move the farm if needed, said Jessie Ban­hazl, whose com­pany, Green City Grow­ers, is re­spon­si­ble for plant­ing and main­tain­ing the gar­den.

Grow­ers use in­ten­sive meth­ods, in­clud­ing drip ir­ri­ga­tion and plant­ing fresh crops right af­ter oth­ers are har­vested. That’s en­abled the gar­den to yield more than 2,000 pounds of toma­toes, cu­cum­ber, egg­plants, all sorts of pep­pers, rose­mary, basil, dill, pars­ley, tar­ragon and kale in the first three months, Ban­hazl said.

“So we’re grow­ing a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing,” she said. “It’s our first year do­ing the farm and so we thought we’d try out a bunch of dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties to see what the kitchens were us­ing, and also to just kind of experiment with what peo­ple liked.”

Start­ing a farm at the iconic ball­park re­quired check­ing the struc­tural in­tegrity of the roof and us­ing light­weight soil, Ban­hazl said.

Grow­ing crops atop a sta­dium packed with scream­ing fans can be dis­tract­ing. Some, sur­prised to see a gar­den on the roof, wan­der over to ask ques­tions.

“But we ac­tu­ally re­ally en­joy that part of it. Be­ing able to en­gage with the public is a huge rea­son why we do what we do,” she said.

De­ter­min­ing what’s grown in­volves con­sul­ta­tions with chefs at the Red Sox flag­ship EMC Club res­tau­rant.

“I’ve been here since 2006 and along with that came that farm-to-ta­ble men­tal­ity,” said Rob Abell, se­nior ex­ec­u­tive chef at Fen­way con­ces­sion­aire Ara­mark, who over­sees food prepa­ra­tions at the res­tau­rant.

“For years we’ve been us­ing all the lo­cal farm­ers — you know, kind of cre­at­ing our dishes with what’s in sea­son and mak­ing sure that food doesn’t travel too far to get to us,” he said. “Well, it’s ridicu­lous how close it is now be­cause lit­er­ally it’s about 150 feet from us.”

“A lot of folks come to Fen­way Park and maybe it’s a day they’re eat­ing our de­li­cious hot dogs and sausages and pizza and chicken ten­ders,” Abell said. “But there are still thou­sands of peo­ple look­ing for some­thing healthy, and it’s just great to be able to give them that op­por­tu­nity to go eat healthy at the ball­park if that’s what they want to do.”

Bos­ton Red Sox fans look over a rail­ing at a rooftop gar­den on the third-base side of Fen­way Park prior to a base­ball game in Bos­ton.

AP PHOTOS/ELISE AMEN­DOLA

Ab­bie Doane-Si­mon of Green City Grow­ers cul­ti­vates pro­duce in a rooftop gar­den on the third-base side of Fen­way Park in Bos­ton. Pro­duce grown in the 5,000-square-foot gar­den is used in food and cock­tails sold at the con­ces­sions, at nearby restau­rants and in the team’s flag­ship res­tau­rant that pre­pares meals for about 40,000 peo­ple dur­ing home games.

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