City approves new farm in Readville, but it won't have cows or goats

The Boston Public Facilities Commission voted today to sell roughly 1.5 acres of long vacant city-owned land in Readville to a Roslindale couple who will use it to grow "microgreens " - plants harvested just a couple weeks after their seeds have germinated.

Lisa Evans and Tim Smith will pay $700 for the land and build a greenhouse and other farm space for their We Grow Microgreens, already in operation in a smaller greenhouse in Roslindale. The couple say the quick harvesting preserves nutrients that are lost in larger, more mature plants.

The former BPS teachers were the only people to bid on the land off Manila Avenue and Norton Street when the city Department of Neighborhood Development, which acquired it more than two decades ago, put it up for sale. The city will hold onto several other adjoining parcels.

A DND official told the commission Evans and Smith led a cleanup effort on the land this past summer - even though they did not own it - that helped clear "decades of trash, dumped construction debris and other items that had previously been hidden." Still, an ISD inspector issued them a ticket last month because they did not remove all the bags of accumulated trash they'd collected.

City Councilor Tim McCarthy (Hyde Park, Roslindale, Mattapan), called the tickets "nonsense" and just a result of what he said was some misinformation about the proposed farm.

McCarthy, who grew up and still lives about 100 yards from the site, urged the commission to approve the sale to allow the "wonderful project."

McCarthy said he can't wait to see the farm up and running and that he is looking forward to visiting it later this year. "They're tremendous people," he said of Evans and Smith, adding they're an example of the sort of small business that is "so important to the city of Boston."

Aides to City Councilor Michelle Wu (at large) and Mayor Walsh also supported the project in what Walsh's aide and Hyde Park native Bryan Flynn called "God's country" (Flynn did note that "many people argue with me about that").

A neighbor who opposed the proposal did not attend the meeting.

More details on the land and its zoning from DND.

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Comments

1.5 ACRES FOR $700?!?!?!

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FOR REAL? How does one even find out about parcels like this going up for bidding? As a city taxpayer that is insulting. Its basically giving it away for nothing.

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I hope there is some

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I hope there is some stipulation that they can't build a house and sell it for market price...

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Are you sure?

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Unless there's no access to the rear section of that property via McDonough Ct, I could see it being divided into two parcels which could each have a single-family house

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Sounds like they put in the work to deserve it

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As long as they turn it into a farm, it's win-win. If they decide to flip it to build condos, then we got screwed. (But it sounds like it was a sh*thole before, so I'm glad it's cleaned-up and being put to use.)

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Just so happens to be right

Just so happens to be right by McCarthy’s house and they get the land for $700? I’m calling big time shenanigans on this one.

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Hold your livestock

The land might be deed restricted or use restricted as a condition of it having been ceded to the city. That would affect the bidding pool.

Or it could simply be that they were the only people who bid on it. Sometimes that happens. Like when one of my housemates bought a 3 year old car at auction for $125.

Medford's Middle Schools are built on land that DCR sold to the community for $1.

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I’ll say this much

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If it ain’t deed restricted, the City got hosed.

I was by this area last month. One of the neighbors has an amazing Christmas light display. Unfortunately, this was the last season. It’s a lot of work.

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The neighbors were not

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The neighbors were not informed that the land was going out to bid.

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Restricted zoning

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From the DND description of the land:

7 parcels located in the Manila Avenue Conservation Protection Subdistrict in the Hyde Park Neighborhood District, totaling 35,190 square feet, being considered for development as an agricultural site consistent with the conservation protection zoning that seeks to promote the most desirable use of land and siting of development in areas with specific natural or scenic features in accordance with a well considered plan, and to protect and enhance the natural and scenic resources of Hyde Park.

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Still

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for $700? I guess the good part is that they will be paying commercial property taxes on the land, right?

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Thank you, Adam, for looking

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Thank you, Adam, for looking into the actual facts here rather than the uninformed speculation others engage in.

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How does A relate to B?

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It’s not like McCarthy is getting any coin on this. Would it have been better if all this went down a mile from McCarthy’s house?

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Other than salaries, what

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Other than salaries, what other source of income do politicians rely?

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Again I ask

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Would it have mattered if McCarthy lived in Roslindale Square, like Wu does?

And for that matter, what was Councillor Flaherty’s view on this?

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McCarthy may be a lot of

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McCarthy may be a lot of things but on the take he is not. Give it a rest.

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They informed said neighbor

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They informed said neighbor he could testify via the wrong email.

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Readville Farm

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I wish them good luck.

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Are the farmers retired teachers or did they just leave?

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I don't know too many leaving BPS teaching jobs paying well over $100,000 with summers and holidays off plus paid vacations in December, February and April, unless of course they are retired (collecting teacher pensions and health care) or independently wealthy.

Regardless, what happens if the farming venture fails or they decide to call it quits? Anything in the deed that says it must remain a farm in perpetuity? U.S. family farms are struggling and their numbers plummet every year. The picture of the accumulated trash bags and brush (left for five months?) shows a house beside the lot. Is this zoned residential? A developer can put a lot of units on 1.5 acres. Not a bad investment for $700. What is the assessed value? Will they pay property taxes or are they non-profit? I enjoy reading the legal notices and real estate listings regularly. I must have missed this one. At least they are wonderful people.

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You get bet the couple will

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You get bet the couple will be going after USDA grants and tax write-offs for farming.

This reeks of cronyism and gaming the system.

The city has a massive housing crisis and keeps subsidizing some developers while extorting others in addition to giving away city owned parcels or leasing out city owned spaces for pennies on the dollar.

We really need a referendum to change the how the city council and strong mayor system works.Other cities have much more responsive and participatory governments then Boston does.

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Really?

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You get bet the couple will be going after USDA grants and tax write-offs for farming.

Oh, really? So you're an ag finance specialist and you know all about "USDA grants and tax write-offs for farming"? I'm guessing not, or you'd know that most of that money goes to agribusiness, not small family farms.

I can't understand people with a dog in the manger attitude like you. The parcel is restricted use. YOU weren't going to be able to buy it and put a house on it. So stop acting like someone took the jam out of your donut.

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There are people with single

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There are people with single garden plots in New York City collecting USDA grants for farming. People game the system all the time because the program requirements aren't worded in a manner which can't be lawyered into something grotesquely different than what was intended.

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.

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I assume they decided the large salaries were less important and they were more interested in turning a hobby into a business.

Imagine that. There are people with different priorities than you.

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Zoning

shows a house beside the lot.

19 houses touch that lot.

It is zoned CPS. The 19 lots that touch it are L1-6000

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Gifted an acre

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For a profit business? It's not like this space will be a farm for educational purposes...it's basically free land for them to run a business from. This is not a traditional farm, this a greenhouse driven business with generous profit margins.

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Same people also got $134,700 from the City for this project

They know how to play the game.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1NfdYFxlfO34FdjDfakiU-RSJhrR_nG09OSqc...

So to date they've received $134,700 for green space maintenance and now they've bought land for $700 which leaves them $134,000 for their business which we can .. walk through.

Edit- I deleted a line about these people being shady but I don't have any evidence of that. They simply took advantage of what the system offered them.

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not even for maintenance

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The purpose for the money is listed as "Path through Urban Farm", which seems like a preposterous amount for a path when installing an entirely new dock at Castle Island got 75,000.

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My problem with the grant

This is a grant to hook up a pair of (I'm sure very nice) retired school teachers (i.e. middle class people) in a neighborhood with lots of trees, very near large woodlands, parks, etc...

This money is meant to "support historic preservation, affordable housing, and parks and open space." You're telling me there isn't a more under-served neighborhood where this money couldn't have helped people who need help much more than some people on their second career? Really? It's absurd to take money from the community preservation budget for this use.

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Path through the urban farm

I don't know these folks, but they seem like good citizens, good neighbors, and good teachers. Here's Tim Smith in a This Old House video explaining how to grow microgreens:

https://www.thisoldhouse.com/how-to/how-to-grow-microgreens

I would be very surprised if this farm didn't become a popular destination for field trips by school kids, and in other ways become an asset to the community. It says on their web site:

"Once we have secured a larger plot of land, our goal is to expand our growing capacity and to provide local youth with the opportunity to discover the power of growing their own food through after-school programming. As Massachusetts State certified teachers, with over 20 years of combined teaching experience, we are well equipped to create a thriving program."

You really don't see how that is a good thing for the community?

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opportunity cost?

I suppose calling them shady was a dick move on my part and I'll edit that. There's no evidence that they used inside connections to get the grant approved, all they did was ask for what was being offered.

I will stand by my assertion that this is money which could have been better spent in much more under-served neighborhoods which is what I interpret the intent of the CPS to be.

If we're going to be hooking up small businesses with grants, why not small businesses which come from the communities which need the most assistance? The optics of this are terrible. Microgreens are a luxury item. This program is being set up in one of the most white neighborhoods in Boston where open space and economic development are readily available. You don't think $135k could have been used elsewhere better?

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