What makes the Green Line Growers farm unique is its capacity to grow and harvest greens every week, even throughout the winter, in the middle of Coolidge Corner inside an old garage.
Inside a specially outfitted freight container sitting inside the old parking garage to be exact.
“We’re going to be Coolidge Corner’s farm, which previously hasn’t really been possible,” said Green Line Growers co-founder Chris Mutty. “Hopefully, it will become another gem of the neighborhood.”
After spending a lot of time researching ways to bring an urban farm project to Brookline, Mutty and Bobby Zuker bought the farm, literally, from a company based in South Boston that designs and manufactures the units, and trains farmers to grow produce inside them. The idea is that by creating a space inside an old shipping or freight container, outfitted with a system of fabricated sunlight and rain, the modular hydroponic mini-farm could create high-yield agriculture.
The farms come fully outfitted, according to Caroline Katsiroubas, marketing manager with Freight Farms. “Just plug them in and add water,” she said.
The company, which opened in 2010, will have distributed more than 50 farms across the country and Canada by the end of the year. Massachusetts, and the Boston area in particular, has the highest concentration of farms, she said. But this will be the first such farm in Brookline.
Katsiroubas said she’s especially excited about the Green Line Growers’ business: “The guys are great, and it’s a perfect location,” she said.
The co-owners are about to go to farm school at the Freight Farm office in Southie. It’s a two-day training, and there are sessions on planting and transplanting, seeding, and harvesting: pitchforks and tractors not required.
Freight Farms representatives said 105 different crop varieties, from strawberries to basil to pumpkin, can grow in their units, though they recommend sticking to the herbs and leafy greens for the bigger crop yields.
One freight farm can produce 500 to 1,000 heads of lettuce, 50 pounds of kale, or 35 pounds of herbs per week, said Katsiroubas. “It’s a lot of food coming out.
Zuker and Mutty both say they were investigating ways to bring a farm project to town when they met through Freight Farms.
The two farmers-in-training said they plan to work with local restaurants interested in using local herbs and greens year round, and the Brookline Teen Center. They also plan to open a small retail store in the Durgin Garage, where Tiny Hanger used to be, envisioning chef tastings, classes and different educational and community events.
But first things first.
“We went through the process, worked with [town planner] Kara Brewton and the Fire and Health and Building departments, and just got our permit,” said Zuker. “The farm is coming on the 21st [of December]”
They envision being able to grow lettuce or leaf arugula, and some herbs and strawberries. “We’ll experiment,” he said, “and figure out what else makes sense.”
He’s hoping restaurants in the area will want fresh, local produce in the winter and year round.
“Most lettuce is shipped from California, and is picked before it’s ripe and sits on trucks for weeks before it can get here,” Zuker said. “The whole process is just too long and it’s picked at the wrong time. We just think we can do it better and locally and organically.”
Although Green Line Growers is not organically certified yet, he said their intent is to become organic.
He said they hope to have produce to sell to restaurants sometime in February, and then start selling to restaurants with the first batch once they see the goods.
“It’s amazing how much land in Coolidge Corner is not being used,” said Brookline Economic Development Director Kara Brewton. The Waldo Garage has been sitting vacant for the past two years, and while the town is hoping to further develop the area, planners say a farm is a good step forward.
Chestnut Hill Realty has given permission for them to use the Waldo Street Garage, she said.
“I think it’s a great temporary use of an underutilized property,” she said.
Another bonus? No cow manure smell or sound of tractors.
“My wife says I’ve always wanted to be a farmer,” said Zuker. He doesn’t have the overalls to match, just yet. “But there’s still time,” he said.