Elsa Bohl is keeping a close eye on a group of seedlings. This is where the two-month process from plant to harvest begins.

In about three weeks, the plants will be moved a few feet over, where through hydroponics and lights, in a controlled environment, they will eventually produce a variety of lettuce.

And all of this farming is being done inside a 40-foot shipping container that’s located on the campus of the City Mission in Schenectady. The Freight Farm is a partnership with SEFCU, who provided the container as part of their efforts to fight hunger.

What You Need To Know

  • A controlled-environment growing facility has allowed Schenectady's City Mission to grow produce year-round

  • The Freight Farm uses hydroponics to grow the vegetables

  • Workers can control conditions through a computer or smartphone while also tending to the outdoor garden

“When plants are growing in nature, the sunlight that they receive, they only take the blue and red lights. So that’s why specifically we have blue and red lights,” said Liddy Zierer, the other Freight Farm coordinator who works with Bohl.

It’s an operation that can continue year-round and be controlled through a computer or a smartphone app.

“One of us checks at least once a day to make sure everything is running right,” Zierer said.

Meanwhile, Bohl is gets a batch of radishes ready for the Mission’s dining center. Right now, she only has about 10, but she says in a few weeks, there will be about 100 good to go.

“Lettuce, you harvest at eight weeks. Radishes, you kind of just [check] by looking at them to see what size they get,” Bohl said.

Along with providing produce for the dining center, they’re also hoping to share some with neighbors and other organizations, as well as selling extra batches to local restaurants. Executive Director Michael Saccocio says this opportunity coincides with their commitment to raise the nutritional value of their meals.

“If there’s a need for more nutritious food, we can figure out when you combine food and technology with hard work, good things can happen,” Saccocio said. “And we think a lot of people are going to be blessed by this endeavor.”

As the Freight Farm picks up steam, Bohl and Zierer are still tending other vegetables at the outdoor garden to ensure there is plenty of fresh produce to go around in a sustainable way.