When people picture a farm, they likely think of large outdoor fields and barns, tractors, and an older gentleman keeping the operation running. Jill Frey and Superbloom Farms breaks just about every stereotype in agriculture. Superbloom Farms grows leafy greens, herbs, and edible flowers in upcycled shipping containers on a formerly vacant lot in Grand Rapids.
In operation for just under a year, Jill has already doubled the size of the farm, adding a second Freight Farm in early May, 2022. Each upcycled shipping container is 320 square feet and can grow the equivalent of two acres of farmland. Seeds planted today will be harvested in just seven weeks, meaning the growing capacity of this closed loop, vertical growing operation is impressive compared to its footprint.
Jill shared, “I was intrigued by the idea that we could move farms, not food. Growing closer to where people live means a longer shelf life, with more nutrient content since the produce is so fresh. I harvest and within a day the greens are at South East Market or Bridge St. Market.” Greens from Superbloom Farms are also used in local restaurants. As she continues to expand the farm Jill hopes to grow more relationships with local businesses so more people can taste the “feel good greens” she is growing.
Superbloom Farms is about growing more than just good food. Growing in the community means a lot to Jill. The land her Freight Farm is on is owned by Amplify GR and is in the Madison Square neighborhood. “It takes about 20 hours to manage each container, plus marketing, sales, and more. As I add more containers, I will need to bring others in to help. I look forward to hiring from within this neighborhood and to hire at living wages.” Jill said. The hydroponic system is high tech and constantly monitors the nutrient levels in the water. A panel, about the size of a smart phone, has controls that can turn on the purple grow lights, but it can also be monitored remotely through a phone app. It will be a great opportunity for someone interested in blending a love of technology and growing.
To provide enough fresh produce for all, Jill realizes she cannot be the only one growing this way. “The more of us, the better for the community. This type of farming really is possible in urban communities.” Jill foresees that within 10 years, all leafy greens sold will be grown hydroponically in or near urban areas. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is supporting a $30 million investment in ag start-up development to make more operations like Superbloom Farms possible. To learn more about her farm, connect with Jill at firstname.lastname@example.org.