Latest Green City Growers News
Mar 25, 2021
Off the third base line of Boston's Fenway Park, tucked behind the baseball stadium's light green walls, sits a different kind of greenery: a 5,000-square-foot urban farm. The farm was built by Green City Growers , a business launched in 2008 out of Somerville, Massachusetts that works with property managers, residents, schools, and senior living facilities to install and maintain farm and garden spaces. Green City Growers built the Fenway installation in 2015, and so far, has generated more than 5,900 pounds of fresh produce — including kale, broccoli, hot peppers, and more — that's been used in the park's Dell EMC Club restaurant and concession stands. While the business saw a growing interest in its farms before the pandemic, lockdowns combined with increasing concerns about food production fueled an even greater spike, said Christopher Grallert, president of Green City Growers. Grallert declined to share exact revenue figures, but documents reviewed by Insider indicate the business booked under $5 million in revenue last year. "Pre-pandemic, building managers wanted a sustainable initiative that engaged their constituency other than a grassy area or ping pong table," Grallert said. "We've seen a lot more interest post-COVID. " Today, Green City Growers maintains about 150 sites, from quaint residential gardens made with raised beds to sprawling rooftop farms above supermarkets, Grallert said. Prices range between $7,000 and $50,000 for residential gardens, while a large rooftop infrastructure can cost between hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, due to the expense of retrofitting buildings to support a farm. Grallert shared his five tips for successfully starting an urban farm and generating income. Consider water and sunlight when choosing the right spot for your urban farm The first step to starting an urban farm is selecting a location. While you may be working with limited options in city settings, it's vital your space has sunlight and access to water, Grallert said. For instance, if you're exploring the option of a farm on your roof, monitor the sunlight to ensure it's not heavily obstructed by other buildings throughout the day. Additionally, consider how you'll water the plants. Investigate whether your future space has access to water, such as a hose hook up. Then decide on your irrigation method: Some people prefer to water by hand, while others opt for irrigation infrastructure like a drip system. Pick a manageable space to start with Not every urban farm needs to be a sprawling garden atop a baseball park. Modest farmers can start with a space as small as 20 square feet if they're looking to harvest crops for a couple of people, Grallert said. However, before installing a farm, consider the future retention of the property, Grallert said. If you're a renter, check with landlords or owners about their future plans for the space in case they're planning something down the line. Green City Growers also built an urban farm at the Boston Convention Exhibition Center (Courtesy of Green City Growers) Make a 4-part business plan Urban farmers who want to make a profit from their crops must create a strong business plan, Grallert said. The four prongs of the strategy should include your cashflow, market fit, sales plan, and committed customers, he added. "You don't need to write a textbook but you need to put a good business plan together," Grallert said. "And rely on other people's experiences when it comes to farming. " (Grallert said he couldn't estimate the ideal amount of cashflow for urban farmers, since there are too many variables including number of employees, property costs, and the size of a farm. ) When selling your product, understand your market for the best results Once your business plan is established, study your target market, Grallert said. Start by considering what you hope to sell and where, to make sure there's space for you in the market. Another tip is to analyze your future customer, Grallert said. Think about who they are, whether they're reliable buyers, and if they'll pay you on time, he added. When Joanna Bassi was first examining the market for her microgreens — grown from her urban farm in LA — she started selling at farmers markets. For six months Bassi sold her goods, mingled with members of the community, and tracked which items performed better than others. Tap existing resources for cost-saving help Entrepreneurs who are looking to make a profit from their urban farm should spend time sifting through existing resources for help, Grallert said.