Growing on a Stadium Rooftop?

(This article was written by Debbie Arrington from the Sacramento Bee, and was published on September 8, 2016.)

Levi’s Stadium took farm-to-fork to new heights.

The $1.2 billion Santa Clara home of the 49ers unveiled a rooftop farm Thursday that will help supply fresh produce and herbs to the facility’s club level food service.

Dubbed “Faithful Farm” in honor of Niners’ fans, the 4,000-square-foot organic garden is the first-ever rooftop farm at a major professional sports venue, according to team and stadium officials. Fresh-picked shishito peppers, special “49ers Squash” and much more will be served to patrons at games.

Expected to produce about 150 pounds of fresh vegetables and herbs a week, the rooftop farm is all about being green, they said.

“We’re proud to reinforce Levi’s Stadium as an industry leader in environmental sustainability with the addition of the Faithful Farm,” said Jim Mercurio, 49ers vice president of stadium operations and general manager, in a news release. “Our 27,000-square-foot green roof successfully helps reduce heating and cooling requirements within our suite tower and carving out this small portion to grow crops for use in the stadium further minimizes our carbon footprint by reducing our reliance on outside food sources.”

More than 150 feet above ground, the “green roof” was originally planted with 16 native plants when the stadium opened in 2014.

Located on the NRG Solar Terrace atop the stadium’s SAP Tower, the farm was planted in late spring and has been producing tomatoes, summer squash, peppers, eggplants, herbs and more since July. That produce is used not only for fans at Niners games but for other gatherings held at Levi’s Stadium, which hosts more than 200 private events a year.

Right now, the farm is sending to the stadium kitchen such summer vegetables as heirloom and cherry tomatoes, Persian cucumbers, sweet peppers, hot peppers, summer squash, eggplants and a special bright gold zucchini named “49ers Squash.” In addition, the farm provides several fresh herbs including chives, basil, sage, thyme and lavender.

According to stadium officials, the farm – which covers about one-tenth of an acre – is maintained by urban farming venture Farmscape and will rotate more than 40 vegetables and herbs.

Levi’s Stadium executive chef Dinari Brown of Centerplate, the hospitality partner to the 49ers, has been busy incorporating his stadium harvest into menus. On tap for Monday’s season opener against the Los Angeles Rams is a club level menu featuring food from the Faithful Farm: Truffled Summer Squash and Dungeness Crab Risotto, Ratatouille Nicoise, Crispy Tempura Shishito Peppers and Shichimi Dusted Colossal Prawns, Heirloom Tomato and Fried Eggplant Napoleon and Aqua Fresca.

The stadium plans to contribute any extra produce from the Faithful Farm to the Salvation Army and Hunger at Home.

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