How to Extend Boston’s Growing (and Holiday) Season

Your tomatoes exploded in October’s snow, your lettuce succumbed in a long, painful wilt, and your parsley is looking a little crunchier ever day. Fall is passing, and winter is nigh. How is a thrifty Bostonian to supply herself with fresh vegetables through the coming snows? Should you hoard your few precious turnips, gnawing on your roots in your attic garret so no one will know that you still have local food? That’s a bit miserly, though, and we all know what happened to Ebenezer Scrooge during the holidays.

The easiest solution is to attend one of the Boston area’s Massachusetts Winter Farmers’ Markets. Why grow when you can buy? You can support local farmers year-round and buy fresh lettuces from greenhouses, traditional “storage” apples that will taste a gazillion times better than the Washington-grown cotton balls passing for apples at the hypermart, squash, breads, and all the other oddments that are somehow associated with farmers nowadays like necklaces and oysters.

But simply purchasing the kale of your dreams isn’t very satisfying in the end. If you want to extend both the growing season and the holiday season, you  to need to share your bounty with others. Right now—at this very moment—the Dorchester Community Food Co-op is using the Kickstarter web site to raise funds to open a winter farmers’ market in Dorchester. To quote the Kickstarter site (emphasis mine):

“The market will accept EBT cards (food stamps) and double the buying power of low-income residents up to $20 through the city’s Bounty Bucks program. We are inviting local neighborhood groups working on food and health issues to participate in the market, and local musicians to provide entertainment. The goal is to create a public space that brings together residents from all backgrounds to celebrate healthy food.”

Got that? Get this market open, and local farmers can provide healthy food to low-income Dorchester residents for half price. What’s for a frugal Yankee not to love? Go on over to Kickstarter and give the Dorchester Winter Farmers’ Market some holiday cheer.

Next year, there might even be food from Dorchester on sale; on November 16, the Boston Redevelopment Authority announced that the city had updated the city’s zoning code to allow agriculture in Dorchester—a project otherwise known as the Urban Agriculture Overlay District. The city will be leasing land for farming for $500/acre at two vacant city-owned Dorchester sites: 23-29 Tucker Street and 131 Glenway Street. I’ve written before about the inherent class tensions involved in high-end urban agriculture on land in a low-income urban area, where more people are concerned about getting jobs than the provenance of their potatoes. I’ll be curious to see how this pilot project turns out.

Of course, not everyone wants to subsidize food for other people. Give a man a turnip, and he’ll eat for a day; teach a man to grow turnips, and he’ll feed you turnips every time you come over for dinner. Joy forever!  And one of the simplest way to ensure a steady supply of mangel-wurzels, rutabagas, and kohlrabi is to build a hoop house—a  low, tunnel-shapped greenhouse made out of some kind of translucent covering stretched over tubing. It keeps cold-hardy plants just warm enough to keep on pumping out chlorophyll in the chilly months. The Boston Natural Areas Network held a workshop on hoop houses and other season-extending techniques earlier this fall, and now there’s one in Brookline’s Greenside Out Community Garden. The Boston Latin school has one too.

But how about a hoop house where you can grow something *besides* turnips? The Highlands Coalition of Lynn is raising money to build the Harry Harley Hoop House, a year-round hoop house where children in Lynn’s Ford School could grow vegetables and fish! in a sheltered pond. Before his untimely death last summer, Harley had “set up a small system at the school to prove lettuce could be grown without soil by filtering wastewater from a fish tank, and it worked,” according to The Daily Item of Lynn. Harley was building a wind turbine to provide electricity for the hoop house when he died.

Teach a child to raise a turnip, and she might give it back; teach a child to raise a fish, and she might actually thank you. If you’d like to extend your holiday giving to the Harry Harley Hoop House, you can donate via Paypal at the bottom of the Highlands Coalition home page.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *