Urban Garden in a Box Text Size

Story Update:

On Thursday, April 26th, we hosted Secretary of Housing & Economic Development Jay Ash for two exciting announcements. 

First, we announced a $200,000 grant to purchase two Freight Farms units. Freight Farms is a Massachusetts start-up company that converts old freights into food production units. Each unit produces the equivalent of 2 acres. This advances our innovation district’s goal of advancing urban agriculture, particularly indoor grow to test how food production can be done at a larger scale with a lower footprint, providing new economic opportunities in the City. Workers on the site will be recruited from within the community as paid apprenticeships. About 35 hours a week will be split up between three people. HCC interns will also be working at the site and complementing the production. Nuestras Raíces will serve as the site manager and operator of the program and grow operations, similarly to their role with other community gardens in the city.

Secondly, Secretary Ash announced a $1.6 million MassWorks grant that will facilitate a full depth reconstruction of Heritage and Front Streets as part of a project that will also rebuild Dwight Street between the first level canal up to the Maple Street intersection starting in the Spring of next year. The $1.6 million award is part of an almost $5 million project. The project will repave, redo the stormwater system underground, provide pedestrian lighting, trees, sidewalks and parking, as well as create frontage for two commercial buildings which are separated from the street by an old rail spur on Front Street. The project will also serve to better connect the downtown assets further to Appleton Street, in preparation for the redevelopment of the old Farr Alpaca Mill into 100 new units of housing.


As part of Holyoke Innovation Week events, Jay Ash, state secretary of Housing and Economic Development, will officially announce the Holyoke Freight Farms urban agriculture project, on Thursday, April 26, at noon, at 150 Race St., when visitors will get their first opportunity to look inside the farm containers. 

Freight Farms containers provide year-round urban garden in a big metal box. Each large metal box can grow as much produce in a year as an acre of farmland, though you’d never know without peaking in.

From the outside, it looks like a shipping container you might see stacked on a barge. That is in fact what it was before being re-purposed by a company called Freight Farms into a self-contained, hydroponic garden unit called a “Leafy Green Machine.”  

And now Holyoke has two of them. They sit side by side in a vacant lot on Race Street next to the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute, where some of the leafy green vegetables grown inside will eventually make their way.   

The pair of 40-foot-long Freight Farms containers was delivered last week, thanks to an investment of nearly $180,000 from the state, and just in time for Holyoke Innovation Week, which continues through Sunday, April 29.  

The funds were provided by MassDevelopment, as part of its Transformative Development Initiative, which is meant to accelerate economic growth in its Gateway Cities’ communities. The project will provide year-round urban agriculture, education and training opportunities for city residents and Holyoke Community College students. Other partners include Nuestras Raices, the city of Holyoke, and the Holyoke Redevelopment Authority.  

The official announcement of the Holyoke Freight Farms urban agriculture project will be delivered by Jay Ash, state secretary of Housing and Economic Development, during a press conference Thursday, April 26, at noon, at 150 Race St., where visitors will get their first opportunity to look inside the farm containers.  

Also speaking will be Mayor Alex Morse; Hilda Roque, executive director of Nuestras Raices; and Bill Fogarty, HCC vice president of Administration and Finance.  

Nuestras Raices, a nonprofit that manages community gardens throughout the city, will run the day-to-day container operations. The city and HCC will share the costs of utilities, maintenance and labor.  

The containers will be used to teach hydroponic growing techniques to agricultural interns from the community and HCC.  

Some of the harvested produce – lettuce, spinach, basil, cilantro and other leafy greens and herbs with shallow roots – will be sold to the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute, HCC on-campus dining services, and local restaurants. Some will be donated to help feed hungry people on campus and in the community.  

“These container farms provide a means of addressing food insecurity in Holyoke while at the same time offering experiential learning opportunities for resident interns and students in HCC’s sustainability, nutrition, culinary arts and health programs,” said HCC president Christina Royal. “Partnerships such as these are key to transforming Holyoke and enabling our community to thrive.”

Posted on April 25, 2018 by