HCC students plant first seeds inside Holyoke container farms
Some time in early October, the first heads of lettuce grown inside a metal shipping container in downtown Holyoke will be ready for harvesting.
Yesterday, Holyoke Community College student interns planted the first seeds in one of two 40-foot-long Freight Farms shipping containers that now sit in a lot off Race Street next to the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute. The planting was part of a two-day training for HCC students, staff and community farmers to learn the basics of hydroponic farming.
Hear more about the Freight Farms project on WAMC-Northeast Public Radio ... "Farming in a box comes to downtown Holyoke"
The two Freight Farms shipping containers – each is called a "Leafy Green Machine" – grow leafy greens and herbs without the use of soil. Each of the container farms can hold 256 grow towers with a capacity of 10-12 plants each. As part of their training, the interns deposited seeds of New Red Fire lettuce into trays of little brown pods, which were then soaked briefly in a water bath and placed under blue and red grow lights. After three weeks, the lettuce seedlings will be transferred to the grow towers for another eight weeks.
Each shipping container can grow as much produce in a year as an acre of farmland.
The shipping containers were delivered in April for a joint urban agriculture project that includes HCC, the city of Holyoke and the community nonprofit Nuestras Raices. The funds for the project, $208,000, were provided by the state through MassDevelopment as part of its Transformative Development Initiative, which is meant to accelerate economic growth in its Gateway Cities' communities.
The training, which began yesterday continue through today, is being lead by representatives from the Freight Farms company that adapted the shipping containers into hydroponic farms. Alina Davledzarova, of Westfield, HCC class of '17, has been hired as the part-time container farm manager. She will be working with Dylan Donicz, of Holyoke, HCC class of '15, who was recently hired as the farm manager for Nuestras Raices. Among others taking part in the training this week are Kate Maiolatesi, head of the sustainable studies and sustainable agriculture programs at HCC, and some of her students.
The two container farms are expected to be up and running with the newly trained staff on Wednesday, July 18.
PHOTO by CHRIS YURKO: HCC student intern Claire McGale from Northampton looks over the first batch of seedpods in one of Holyoke's new Freight Farms container gardens on Race Street.