Autobarn Farm has cleared the initial launch phase. We thought we understood the capacity of this containerized hydroponic farm to grow food. It was what captured our imagination nearly seven years ago. But we weren’t prepared for this. It is simply stunning. Captivating. To place a pelleted seed in a seedling tray on Thanksgiving weekend and to transition through each of the phases of growth meant we were able to harvest fully mature Swiss chard, red frills mustard greens, purple kale, Genovese basil, Red Ruben purple basil and over eight varieties of lettuce by January 6th.
All of these crops were trial runs, test crops for training. We completed Farm Training at the Freight Farms office in Boston during the summer but there is a radical difference between observational learning and real, hands-on practice. As of today, we can declare we have not flooded the farm – which is apparently a common mistake every Freight Farmer will make at some point. It’s equivalent to leaving the chicken coop unlatched or the paddock gate open. You end up with cows wandering around town.
But we are so excited by the stunning beauty of these plants and they taste amazing.
We grow some of our own food in our backyard garden. I have a perpetual herb garden. And, right now, we’ve got carrots and broccoli coming in to the table. And those backyard dirt-grown carrots exceed any carrot bought at the store. But growing lettuce is a fickle endeavor. Locally grown lettuce has a narrow season. In the summer months, local grown lettuce is neigh impossible. To make a salad in August means buying a lettuce that’s been in a plastic wrapper or clamshell box for a week or longer. And if I don’t eat the entire container in three or four days, it gets slimy and spoils.
The tester crops we harvested ten days ago – with their attached root balls – are still crisp and crunchy and unwilted. The leaves are shiny and iridescent. This may be the coolest experiment ever! We are so excited to be able to share this with our community and to offer our local chefs and caterers a dependable, reliable, consistent source of lettuces, greens and herbs. Knowing you can source that key ingredient from a farm less than ten miles away is unbeatable.