What do you get when health conscious CrossFitters live in a food desert? That’s easy: urban agriculture.
CrossFit Somerville is located in Somerville, Massachusetts, and while it has the usual CrossFit equipment, it also has chickens, gardens and bees. “It started with a rooftop project a couple years ago and the members got excited about it and wanted to expand it, so our urban agriculture project is entirely run by members here,” explained J.T. Scott, the CrossFit Somerville Affiliate.
This year, the project expanded to a couple hundred square feet of gardening space in the back of the Box, complete with raised beds and six chickens. The beehive resides on the roof. “The challenges are multiple in that we don’t have any arable open land here so we have to make it, and also our soil is also highly toxic from a 150-year legacy from a history of industrial manufacturing in the area,” said Scott. “It’s been an interesting set of challenges, but our members are highly motivated and really excited about it.”
The chicken coops and garden beds were developed by the members during set work parties after CrossFit Somerville received the corresponding permits. Every week, three to four members take part in a weekly rotation responsible for the care of the gardens and chickens. Over the course of the seven-day period, whatever eggs or vegetables are harvested, the assigned volunteers get to take the produce home. About 20 to 25 members participate in the rotation.
Scott hopes the impact of the Box’s project expands beyond the four walls of his gym. “The hope is to be able to transfer that knowledge to people’s own home gardens,” he said. “Next year I’m hoping in the spring we’ll go around to a couple members’ places and build chicken coops in their backyard.”
But he doesn’t want it to stop there. He explained that CrossFit is more than just pushups and pull-ups; it’s about one’s ability to change the world. The urban agriculture project is just another way Scott said the Box is looking to play a role in this belief. “My goal in starting a CrossFit Box isn’t to make a million dollars, my goal is to change the world, to make my neighborhood a better place,” he said. “When I look at this, I see a way to help my members understand in a very physical, tangible way where food comes from.”
For the majority of Boxes out there, Scott noted it would be relatively easy to start a project like CrossFit Somerville’s, something he wants to happen. “It’s my hope that this is something that becomes part of CrossFit … I’d love to see radical self reliance become a part of that culture as well,” he said. “We joke about it here, that when our members travel and drop in at other Boxes one of the questions they ask is, ‘So where do you keep your chickens?’ I actually hope that that becomes a question that more Boxes have answers to because I think this really could become a really valued part of CrossFit culture.”
Photos by Talia Arnow