Turning Over a New Leaf

Starting off my senior year, I never would have  expected to find myself working inside a cargo container with over 1200 heads of lettuce silently watching me while I seeded their younger counterparts.

It was a bizarre and AHAH moment when I realized that I was one of the few outside influences these plants would ever come into contact with. Through the use of artificial lighting, these plants don’t even need to be exposed to sunlight in order to grow.

Like these leafy greens, I too am not used to bathing in the light of day, but the only products I will ever “grow” are computer simulation models, lab reports, and a minor case of vitamin D deficiency (complimentary of an engineering degree).

Working at the Freight Farm has been a barrage of surreal experiences.

First off, everything is grown indoors- inside a freight truck.

hydroponicsThis farm doesn’t rely on the conventional dig in the dirt and pray for good weather method. Instead, everything is meticulously managed for perfect growing temperatures and water exposure. So… while other crops are baking in the 90+ heat wave, our lettuce is chilling at a comfortable 60 degrees.

AND it is all inside a reused semi-truck container.

Let me just elaborate how nifty that is….

  1. Instead of throwing the container into another landfill, Chartwells is re-purposing it to bring more healthy and sustainable alternatives in order to better fuel our brains for a brighter future.
  2. The farm can become portable if need be!
  3. The cargo container acts as a barrier from pests. So the amount of pesticide that you will be coming in to contact with is practically eliminated when eating from the on campus Freight Farm.
  4. The container itself takes up a small land footprint. Less space per pound of food means that we can grow more while degrading our environment less.
    • Although this dense spacing of the lettuce is good from a logistics/environmental point of view, it sometimes leads to uncomfortable moments of shuffling around and bumping into the other farmers (and as a self-proclaimed clumsy blob of awkwardness, this happens to occur a lot for me).

My second surreal experience was growing everything in a hydroponic system.

PSA: Soil is NOT necessary for plants to survive. As long as they receive ample amounts of nutrients, water, and enough space to allow their roots to expand, plants will continue to rise towards whatever light source is present at the time.

Even though I never would have guessed I would be spending my time in a cargo container, I am excited to be involved with such a unique and feel-good opportunity.  So it shows that even an awkward nerd like me can leave behind the screen of a computer and take my chance as a farmer…..

(an air-conditioned and extremely clean/dirt free farmer).

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