ReVision Urban Farm Uses Technology, Data, and Hard Work to Maximize Production

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Guest Blog by Conor Brosnan, ReVision Urban Farm Grower

Photo of produce at the farm stand. Everything is in trays and baskets on a wooden table. On the far left, a basket on it's side holds vine-ripe tomatoes, next to it sit peppers, carrots, summer squash, green onions, strawberries, and cauliflower. The top row is kale, lettuce, cabbage and other greens. Victory Programs’ ReVision Urban Farm is a special place; a small slice of farmland evoking the picturesque landscape of America’s agricultural heartland nestled in the heart of Boston’s densely populated Dorchester and Mattapan communities. Our staff strives to blend ages-old best practices for land management with modern, data-driven approaches to improve efficiency and maximize production on a small lot. Unlike many of its larger counterparts, our farm falls on less than an acre of land, which requires us to utilize and maximize every square foot. This urban “land challenge” has sparked a need for a variety of forward-thinking and innovative approaches. Our mission has, and will always be, to bring fresh, nutritious, local food to our community. Fulfilling this mission requires soil, sun, water, and lots of hard work; the hallmarks of any successful farm.

The ReVision team is currently researching and exploring a variety of technological advancements that would improve our yields, efficiency and more effectively fulfill our mission. Planned improvements include maximizing greenhouse efficiency through monitors and updated heating systems and monitoring field temperatures, soil saturation, and even pest issues to improve productivity. Although many of these technological improvements are in the idea and planning stage, we have already begun improving our

Overhead view of ReVision Urban Farm from the third floor of ReVision Family Home showing the gazebo, and fields lush with growing plants.

data-tracking, efficiency, and ability to meaningfully plan for future seasons. This season alone we’ve been able to channel generous support from donors and grants into significant improvements which enable us to better predict harvest yield and plan for future needs.

Our new germination chamber, purchased through a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture, tracks and controls humidity, temperature, and the overall environment for growing seeds, which has already drastically improved our germination rates. The germination chamber also helps us reduce our consumption of water, soil, compost, and other resources while addressing the dreaded anxiety of waiting on the unknown germination outcomes. Not only does the germination chamber save time, money, and headaches, it also allows us to grow and sell microgreens at markets year-round.

Another improvement we’ve been able to make this season is mapping our available growing space through an in-depth spreadsheet. Every single, row is mapped out with the planted crops and expected yield for each in via an advanced and user-friendly interface. Volunteers planting seedlings in the greenhouse at ReVision. The volunteer on the left is a woman with ebony skin and just below shoulder length dreadlocks wearing a black sweater over a grey shirt. She is smiling and leaning over a seed tray. The woman on the right has pale skin and short, light brown hair. She is wearing a shirt with horizontal grey and black strips and sunglasses. She is holding a pen which she is using to make holes to put seeds into. Our new system allows up to see at-a-glance how many plants are in each bed, what variety each is, and more accurately project what will be available for CSA subscribers, farmers markets, and community partners. Looking forward, this data will provide us the information we need to make informed changes to crop plans and ensure that we are maximizing our available growing space.

Urban farming is entering a new and exciting chapter that intersects the need to understand and utilize both nature and technology. Our goal at ReVision Urban Farm is to lead by example, adopting the best practices that will help us bring affordable, nutritious, local food to our community. By committing to both data and cutting-edge technology and good old-fashioned sweat and hard work, our small piece of land will be able to change the culture and approach to food and nutrition in our neighborhood and beyond.

Curious about ReVision Urban Farm?

Give us a call at 617-822-3276 or stop by our farm stand at 1062 Blue Hill Avenue in Dorchester, open Fridays from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM through October.

You can also support our work by making a donation to the farm here or calling our volunteer coordinator at 617-236-1012 x227 to ask about available work shifts.

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