Quantcast

Urban Farming Hits Major League Baseball Stadiums

Food

As fans sitting on the third baseline streamed into Boston’s Fenway Park for the Red Sox home opener, they were greeted with the sight of 1,800 square feet of raised beds on a formerly unused 5,000-square-foot rooftop. “Fenway Farms” initially will grow fresh vegetables not typically found in baseball stadiums—arugula, Swiss chard and broccoli rabe, for instance—for use by the chefs at the EMC Club kitchen, just 25 feet away.

Boston’s Fenway Park has 1,800 square feet of raised beds on a formerly unused 5,000-square-foot rooftop. Photo credit: Maureen White

The ballpark may not conjure images of health and sustainability—and certainly not innovation in urban agriculture—but a handful of Major League clubs just may change that, and in the process give new meaning to “farm teams.” This season, the Red Sox join the Colorado Rockies, the San Diego Padres and the San Francisco Giants in starting to grow a portion of their stadium concessions in on-site farms and gardens.

The farm’s location is highly visible to many of the roughly 37,000 fans who fill the ballpark for the team’s 81 home games and the handful of concerts and other events to which Fenway plays host—a potential influence that is not lost on Chris Knight, the team’s manager of facility planning and services.

“We have such a platform here at this level of sports and at Fenway Park—this is one way we can make an impact for the environment and nutrition,” he said.

When the first vegetables and herbs were harvested in early May, Fenway Farms contributed its part to a long-term push at the ballpark to operate more sustainably—and a more recent emphasis on integrating healthy food into concessions. Knight said the idea for the farm came from Linda Pizzuti Henry, wife of Sox co-owner John Henry. Last summer, the founders of Green City Growers—a company converting unused space into farms and gardens—met with Henry to pitch ideas for turning that dream into a reality.

The process “picked up quickly” from there, said Green City Growers founder, Jessie Banhazl, with the team picking out a site on the front-office roof and growers meeting with chefs at the seasonally inspired EMC Club to come up with a lineup of veggies to grow. Recover Green Roofs began construction and farm installation in mid-March, and plants went into the newly poured soil last week—just in time for the first home game of the season.

Photo credit: Maureen White

“It’s wild. We’re really, really, really excited about this,” said Banhazl, whose company will maintain the farm. “This particular project is the coolest and most widespread reach that we’ve ever seen with an urban agriculture project.”

Read page 1

The foray by the Red Sox into urban agriculture is unusual among modern professional baseball teams—but the team is not the first to catch the grow-your-own bug. In 2012, at the stadium chef's request, San Diego Padres head groundskeeper Luke Yoder planted more than a dozen hot pepper and tomato plants in the Petco Park bullpen. In 2013, the Colorado Rockies, working with their catering contractor, Aramark, installed a 600-square-foot kitchen garden near Gate A at Coors Field, which sprouts an assortment of flowers, herbs, and other vegetables. Much of the food harvested from “The GaRden” is found in dishes at the stadium’s premier Mountain Ranch Club.

Last season, the San Francisco Giants and Bon Appétit Management built The Garden at AT&T Park, a 4,320-square-foot dining pavilion serving produce grown in several nearby gardens and a high-yield vertical farm. (There was even a bit of controversy when the Padres took issue with Giants’ marketing claiming to have the majors’ first farm, claims that were later retracted). The Garden pavilion contains two food concepts: The Hearth Table uses only gluten-free ingredients, while The Garden Table serves vegetarian offerings. Bartenders even integrate fresh-grown herbs into the cocktails. Don’t worry, you can still get your all-beef hot dog at The Garden, but Laura Braley, spokesperson for Bon Appétit Management, said the ballpark simply wants to provide alternatives for fans seeking a more nutritious meal and sees the on-site farm as a way to inspire fans to think about the source of their food.

Photo credit: Maureen White

“It’s fun to get a salad or a flatbread and literally see the ingredients growing right there,” she said, adding that prices in The Garden have remained consistent with other offerings at AT&T Park.

While the Sox, Rockies, Padres and Giants lead the majors in progressive food and nutrition policies, other clubs appear to be competing for the most outrageous offerings on the other end of the health spectrum. At Rangers Stadium in Texas, for instance, fans this season will be able to dine on a deep-fried “S’mOreo” (exactly what it sounds like), chicken-fried corn on the cob, and bacon-flavored cotton candy. The Arizona Diamondbacks this season introduced the Churro Dog: a churro inside a chocolate-frosted long-john doughnut, topped with ice cream, whipped cream, and both chocolate and caramel syrups.

Photo credit: Green City Growers

Make no mistake: Sox and Giants fans still have their pick of less-than-nutritious stadium foods. Neither club would provide data on how well their healthier offerings have been selling, but a 2014 study of a healthy-food overhaul of a concession stand at a high-school athletics facility found that the changes had no negative effect on concessions sales and even improved overall satisfaction among parents. Varsity football is a world away from Major League Baseball, sure, but with dining trends tend toward healthier food nationally, there is both interest and demand that these programs could tap into.

Besides nutritional and environmental goals for their farms, the Giants and Red Sox have strong educational outreach programs. The Giants earlier this year unveiled plans to use The Garden at AT&T Park as an outdoor nutrition and agricultural classroom for children on non–game days, giving kids a chance to learn the importance of healthy eating. Boston has similar plans for youth enrichment—and even dreams of farming in other parts of the ballpark—as soon as farm operations are streamlined and crops are coming up.

While the first veggies won’t be ready to harvest for a few more weeks, Banhazl said she caught glimpses of the the farm’s potential influence on opening day. As she watched child after child run up to the railing and see the new beds for the first time, she saw something come alive in them.

“They’d say, ‘Oh my God, the Red Sox have a farm?’” she recalled. “We should do this, Mom!”

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE 

Vegan Ultramarathoner Breaks Record for Fastest Race Up Appalachian Trail

3 Creative Solutions Emerging in Urban Farming

World’s Largest Indoor Vertical Farm Breaks Ground in Newark, New Jersey

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Rebecca Burgess came up with the idea of a fibersheds project to develop an eco-friendly, locally sourced wardrobe. Nicolás Boullosa / CC BY 2.0

By Tara Lohan

If I were to open my refrigerator, the origins of most of the food wouldn't be too much of a mystery — the milk, cheese and produce all come from relatively nearby farms. I can tell from the labels on other packaged goods if they're fair trade, non-GMO or organic.

Read More Show Less
A television crew reports on Hurricane Dorian while waves crash against the Banana River sea wall. Paul Hennessy / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope

Some good news, for a change, about climate change: When hundreds of newsrooms focus their attention on the climate crisis, all at the same time, the public conversation about the problem gets better: more prominent, more informative, more urgent.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) met with Bill Gates on Nov. 7 to discuss climate change and ways to address the challenge. Senator Chris Coons

The U.S. Senate's bipartisan climate caucus started with just two members, a Republican from Indiana and a Democrat from Delaware. Now it's up to eight members after two Democrats, one Independent and three more Republicans joined the caucus last week, as The Hill reported.

Read More Show Less
EPA scientists survey aquatic life in Newport, Oregon. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to significantly limit the use of science in agency rulemaking around public health, the The New York Times reports.

Read More Show Less
A timelapse video shows synthetic material and baby fish collected from a plankton sample from a surface slick taken off Hawaii's coast. Honolulu Star-Advertiser / YouTube screenshot

A team of researchers led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration didn't intend to study plastic pollution when they towed a tiny mesh net through the waters off Hawaii's West Coast. Instead, they wanted to learn more about the habits of larval fish.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Two silver-backed chevrotain caught on camera trap. The species has only recently been rediscovered after being last seen in 1990. GWC / Mongabay

By Jeremy Hance

VIETNAM, July 2019 – I'm chasing a ghost, I think not for the first time, as night falls and I gather up my gear in a hotel in a village in southern Vietnam. I pack my camera, a bottle of water, and a poncho; outside the window I can see a light rain.

Read More Show Less
(L) Selma Three Stone Engagement Ring. (R) The Greener Diamond Farm Project. MiaDonna

By Bailey Hopp

If you had to choose a diamond for your engagement ring from below or above the ground, which would you pick … and why would you pick it? This is the main question consumers are facing when picking out their diamond engagement ring today. With a dramatic increase in demand for conflict-free lab-grown diamonds, the diamond industry is shifting right before our eyes.

Read More Show Less
Flooding in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina on Sept. 11, 2005. NOAA Photo Library / Lieut. Commander Mark Moran

The most destructive hurricanes are three times more frequent than they were a century ago, new research has found, and this can be "unequivocally" linked to the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less