In terms of location, Kate is one of our most extreme farmers, growing at an elevation of 8,885 feet
Spring is here! And that means it's time to grow your knowledge about the agricultural industry
6 Questions with Zach Bain of Lowell Lettuce
One of the best parts of being part of the Freight Farms team is talking to our freight farmers and hearing about their successes, their businesses, their customers, and their challenges. They are a wealth of information, so we wanted to share some of their stories with you!
Zach Bain of Lowell Lettuce launched his urban farm in the summer of 2016 in Lowell, Massachusetts, and is growing mini-head lettuce, kale, wasabi arugula, and salad mix year-round. Zach is an urban farmer, entrepreneur, and marketing consultant all rolled into one. We recently spoke with him about his experience as a freight farmer, his thoughts on the food system, and his advice to people thinking about becoming freight farmers.
Freight Farms (FF): What’s the most pressing issue in food and agriculture that you’d like to see solved?
Zach Bain (ZB): As communities, we need to build the infrastructure that will support local producers and help them compete with big, conventional farms. No one got into small farming because the money was good, and it can be tough to invest in infrastructure and equipment like refrigerated trucks or to hire a person to run the logistics of a complex distribution system or any of the other systems that allow Big Ag to grow and sell huge volumes of cheap produce. In order to compete, we need to develop more support structures, locally and regionally to keep small farms competitive and financially sustainable.
I see the continued development of food hubs and cooperatives as a significant step. But to really succeed, we have to get folks from all parts of our local communities to buy in and join the local food revolution.
FF: What’s the best part of being a freight farmer?
ZB: An LGM gives a new hydroponic farmer the chance to launch their business VERY quickly. The learning curve is much shorter than if you had to start from scratch, because the FF team (and previous customers) have tested and tested the system. This lets you focus on building your market.
It’s also great because you don’t have to stress (too much) about your land situation, since, as a semi-portable, self-contained farm, if your land-lease situation changes, you can move it down the road.
FF: What’s the story behind Lowell Lettuce?
ZB: I’ve always loved growing things, and I’ve always wanted to run a farm. It was a dream, though, and one I’d put off for the future. After finishing graduate school, though, with some time to contemplate “my future” I realized if I kept putting it off I’d live to regret it. After getting to know Freight Farms, I realized a container farm would be a solid step toward my farm business dream.
I was further thrilled to launch the farm in Lowell, a city that my great Grandfather launched his first business in back in the 1920s, and add hydroponic production to the city’s already exciting urban farm scene.
FF: What’s the best piece of advice you can give to people interested in becoming freight farmers?
ZB: Network, network, network. The agriculture and small farm community is amazing, and there is so much wisdom and experience being shared openly. I always smile when non-farm people ask me about my competition because I don’t think small farmers and growers look at each other like that. The market for food is as big as the population (everyone eats, right?), so there is no need to fight. We’re all trying to make a decent living feeding our communities.
Don’t be afraid of your fellow farmers, even if you don’t think you have anything to learn from in-ground, organic producers, you’re wrong. You’ll make some great friends, learn a ton, and you never know who will connect you to your next great customer.
FF: What reaction do you typically get from people when you tell them what you do for a living?
ZB: Smiles; mostly smiles. Only two percent of the U.S identifies as farmers, so it’s very likely most people don’t know any farmers, hydroponic or organic or otherwise. We’re practically unicorns, and most folks are pleasantly surprised when you tell them. Once I explain that my primary farm is a shipping container, their smiles transform as their jaws drop.
FF: What are your plans for the future?
ZB: This spring I’m launching Lowell Lettuce’s sister farm: a one-quarter acre market garden in the town over from Lowell. I’m working with New Entry Sustainable Farm Project and their incubator farm program, and I’m very excited to break ground once the snow melts.
Lowell Lettuce is also continuing to add new markets and explore new opportunities, and I’m very excited for what 2017 has in store for both of my farms.
Spring is right around the corner, so why not pull out all the stops and transform some (locally grown) blossoms into tasty accents for confections and drinks.
We've compiled some resources to help you determine what kind of packaging best suits the needs of you and your customers.
You might think that fitting an entire farm into a 40’ x 8’ x 9.5’ shipping container would lead to a cramped working environment, but the LGM was designed to maximize the amount of physical space inside the farm.
Hydroponic technology allows farmers to cultivate crops year-round, no matter where they live.
Unlike traditional farming, the LGM requires only about twenty hours of labor per week to grow the same amount of food that you could grow on two acres of farmland inside a 320 square foot shipping container.
As our network of Freight Farmers continues to expand globally, the range of locations where farmers are placing their Leafy Green Machines is growing just as quickly.
Do you like the concept of becoming a Freight Farmer, but aren't sure how to get the most out of your Leafy Green Machine? We compiled a taste of some of the great ideas our farmers are using to cultivate fresh produce, while also doing good.
If you’re looking to bring an LGM to your local community, you’ll need to get familiar with your local zoning regulations. Here are 6 tips on how to navigate the zoning process.
We've tallied up some numbers to see where we stand at the end of the year, and we're thrilled to have over 100 Leafy Green Machines operating across the globe, to have 11 new team members serving our expanding network of farmers, and to have collected an unbelievable amount of data on all LGMs. And that's just the beginning...take a look below at the rest of the highlights from 2016.
During the Question and Answer section of the webinar, we got quite a few questions geared directly towards Agora Greens and others for Freight Farms specifically. Below find the top 14 questions we received:
Last week we held a webinar with two freight farmers so they could share their journey to launching a small business with the LGM. We covered everything from market research and financing to what crops to grow and how to reach new customers. Here's a recap!
Both Horticoop and Freight Farms are excited to bring Europe into the rapidly growing network of existing freight farmers spanning across the United States, Caribbean, and Canada. Our vision to create local produce ecosystems on a global scale is quickly coming to fruition and we are eager to empower more freight farmers around the world
Kimbal Musk just recently announced that he will be launching a new business in the fall — Square Roots. An urban farming accelerator program focused on training young entrepreneurs to grow non-GMO, fresh, tasty, food year-round, Square Roots will be leveraging the Freight Farms technology to create campuses of climate-controlled, indoor, vertical farms.
Shawn and Connie Cooney started careers as farmers in 2013 because they wanted to do something different. After purchasing four Leafy Green Machines, the husband and wife duo launched their new business, Corner Stalk Farm, and became the largest commercial urban farm in the city of Boston.
Mitch Hagney is helping propel the local food movement in San Antonio, Texas by cultivating food right in the heart of the city. His farming business, Local Sprout, supplies residents and restaurants with a variety of sustainably grown produce year-round.
Farming can be a labor intensive endeavor, requiring many hours of man power and hard work, but what was once considered a staple to successful farming is now being seen as a time suck. The weeding, pest control, soil preparation, and the distribution of nutrients has either disappeared entirely from the LGM or has become fully automated. By stripping-away the nuances of traditional farming, we’ve created a system that requires only the core essentials: seeding, transplanting and harvesting. What some might consider a part-time job, 20-25 labor hours a week, is now the amount of time it takes to run a revenue generating farm.