Two Acres of Urban Farming in One Freight Crate
Jon Olinto got involved with Freight Farms as a way of supplying fresh greens to b.good, the Boston-based fast-healthy restaurant chain he cofounded. He’d dabbled in urban growing—like cultivating tomatoes in baby pools on the roof of one restaurant—but wanted to expand the supply by installing a freight farm.
It wasn’t so easy at first. The b.good team got turned down by landlord after landlord who didn’t want a farm on their property, but eventually made an arrangement with a property management company and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to install one under the I-93 overpass. They partnered with Scott DeLuca, an ex-finance professional who wanted to start farming, and promised to buy DeLuca’s produce for the b.good restaurants. The first seeds went in at the end of September and have now matured. In the process, the space around the farm has evolved, too.
“Two years ago it really was wasteland—you would never even walk underneath it,” Olinto says. “This dead space has been converted to actually grow fresh veggies. It’s going to be 365 days a year. We just harvested 50 pounds of baby kale in December and we had our first frost back in October.”
That ability to serve foods he otherwise couldn’t, grown less than a mile away from the restaurant, leads Olinto to believe this concept could really take off.
”There’s always anxiousness around starting something new, but I think the market is really underserved,” he says. “I’m not the only restaurant owner who would love to source fresh produce all year from just around the corner.”
Freight Farms is ramping up production with a goal of shipping internationally next year. Closer to home, they’re also looking for partners to get the farms into food deserts, so food can be grown and sold in the community. If these plans succeed, cities a few years from now could be better fed and closer to the source of the food they eat, which would be quite a reversal for the box that kickstarted international food shipping.