Every Whole Foods Market tries to buy and sell local products; it’s one of the grocery’s major draws. The Lynnfield, Massachusetts, location is one of only a few that can grow and harvest what it needs right upstairs.

Designed and built by Recover Green Roofs in 2013, and managed by Green City Growers, the Lynnfield Whole Foods rooftop garden produces vegetables, fruit, flowers, and other produce. Its roof system, designed by American Hydrotech, uses 12-inch mounds of lightweight growing media from Read Custom Soils laid in four-foot-wide rows to capitalize on space, energy, and water usage.

“This project keenly illustrates the multifaceted benefits of a vegetated roof,” says Hydrotech garden roof department manager Richard Hayden. “These benefits apply to not only the Whole Foods project, but also to other commercial and institutional projects.”

The garden also lowers urban temperatures and filters rainwater runoff.

The garden also lowers urban temperatures and filters rainwater runoff. A Rain Bird irrigation system schedules irrigation and measures temperature, humidity, solar exposure, and wind. The system minimizes waste by using drip irrigation, which delivers water directly to the roots.


It’s not just the tomatoes that are local: Nearly all of the materials used in the garden roof come from Massachusetts vendors: soil blend from Read Custom Soils (Canton), plants from Red Fire Farm (Granby), and Black Locust Lumber (Worcester). American Hydrotech, which has 18-plus years of experience, supplied the Whole Foods project with Gardendrain and LiteTop media.

Hayden lists several advantages the garden gives the store, including reducing damaging UV radiation from the sun, reducing urban heat island effect, and its use as a storm-water storage system. Additionally, Recover Green Roofs director of operations Mark Winterer says the garden has already bettered the grocery’s produce section.

“There’s a physical difference between what they grow on the roof and what they import,” he says. “Frankly, the vegetables don’t look like they were grown with Miracle Gro and chemicals. They look like real vegetables. They look like food, and they look good.”

The rooftop garden is the first of its kind for Whole Foods, the anchor of the largest open-air shopping center on the North Shore of Massachusetts. The scale of the project pushes the boundaries of urban agriculture, Winterer says.