GreenovateRenew Boston


By October 19, 2019 No Comments

Urban agriculture improves access to fresh, healthy, affordable food, with decreased transportation costs and lower carbon emissions. In December 2013, the City passed Article 89, a city-wide zoning article that allows for commercial urban agriculture in Boston. Small or large, new farming endeavors will bring communities together, empower small entrepreneurs, and increase access to fresh food for Bostonians.

To develop Article 89, the Boston Redevelopment Authority worked closely with the Mayor’s Office of Food Initiatives and the Mayor’s Urban Agriculture Working Group, a group of farmers, experts, residents and advocates gathered together to advise and guide staff. Article 89 is the product of 18 open public meetings of the Mayor’s Urban Agriculture Working Group and 11 Neighborhood Meetings, which took place throughout Boston in June and July, 2013.


Farm Types

On your mark, get set, farm!

Ground-level Farms are allowed* everywhere, up to one acre in size. Ground-level farms over one acre in size will be allowed in industrial areas, and will be conditional* everywhere else.

Roof-level Farms up to 10,000 square feet are allowed everywhere. Roof-level farms of all sizes are allowed in industrial, institutional, and large-scale commercial zoning districts. Roof-level farms of more than 10,000 square feet are conditional in all other zoning districts.

Roof-level Greenhouses are allowed in institutional, industrial, and large scale commercial zoning districts, and will be conditional everywhere else.

*Allowed – No public hearing required. May require special permits.
*Conditional – Public hearing required. Abutters notified.


Soil Safety

Did you know that Boston is a national leader in establishing Soil Safety Protocol for urban farms?

To ensure that crops are grown in safe soil, farmers must place a barrier over existing soil, plant their crops in raised beds, and test the imported soil.

The raised bed method has a proven track record and is endorsed by the US Environmental Protection Agency. All farms using soil must comply with the Soil Safety Protocol. Planting in native soil is only allowed by following State protocol.



Give back to your garden! As we’ve discussed before, composting is an inexpensive and sustainable way to fertilize crops with nutrient-rich soil made from your food scraps and organic waste.

Under Article 89, composting from organic waste produced on the farm may occupy up to 7.5% of the lot area of a farm. The siting of all compost operations will be reviewed as part of a Comprehensive Farm Review.


What is a Comprehensive Farm Review?

A Comprehensive Farm Review (CFR) is a staff level review conducted by the BRA to make sure farms (especially larger ones) are designed to be good neighbors!

A CFR will be required for: Ground-level farms larger than 10,000 square feet. Roof-level farms larger than 5,000 square feet, with some exceptions for farms in industrial and institutional districts. CFR will take up to 45 days; abutters will be notified for comment.


Farmers’ Markets and Farm Stands

Now that everyone will have better access to urban farming, let’s share the harvest!

Farmers’ markets will be allowed in any area where retail is already allowed by the existing zoning, and conditional everywhere else.

Farm stands will be allowed on any urban farm, where retail uses are allowed by underlying zoning, and conditional everywhere else.


Backyard Buddies

Eggs and honey are even sweeter when you’ve helped to make them! While Article 89 does not change any of the current zoning rules regarding our winged friends, in places where conditional zoning allows for coops and hives:


Article 89 defines the permissible size of beehives and coops, numbers of allowed hens and beehives, and other requirements.

There are very exciting opportunities unfolding for Urban Agriculture in Boston and with these new standards, everyone can get involved!