It’s not every day that a pig visits Clarke, New England’s Official Sub-Zero, Wolf and Cove Showroom. However, the recent expansion of Clarke’s Freight Farm has drawn rave reviews from many, and Winnie the pig is a big fan. Winnie is owned by Andy Kramer of Kramer’s Custom Kitchens and Woodworking in Holliston, MA. As a well-known kitchen designer, Andy visits Clarke’s Milford Showroom regularly. During one of his visits, Andy brought a head of hydroponically grown lettuce home to Winnie from Clarke’s Freight Farm and the prized pig loved the treat. So, it was only fitting that Winnie should visit the newly expanded Freight Farm at Clarke’s Milford location to celebrate the new crops and meet President Sean Clarke and Nathan Liberty, Clarke’s farm operator.
Clarke’s farm was launched in February 2019 with Francesca Mazzilli as the original farm operator. Lexy Basquette joined in the summer of 2019 and took over farm operations, and Nathan Liberty joined the team and became the new farm operator in October of 2020. Until recently, Clarke was using 128 growing towers inside of the 40-foot shipping container located adjacent to their Milford, MA parking lot. To celebrate the farm’s second anniversary, Clarke has expanded to utilizing all 256 towers of growing space.
Here’s everything you might want to know about Clarke’s newly expanded Freight Farm…
What do we grow?
Each week – year round – Nathan harvests 120 heads of delicious, fresh lettuce to distribute to visitors at Clarke’s showrooms. In addition, Clarke employees each have produce shares, providing their families with fresh lettuce and other crops weekly. There is also space in the “Leafy Green Machine” (the name Freight Farm uses for this model of their hydroponic farms) for a selection of experimental crops to be used by the Clarke chefs in their daily food preparations. These include beets, cabbage, turnips, kohlrabi, shiso and carrots. After experimenting, we’ll transition these crops to being grown in greater quantities. Nathan is a wealth of agricultural knowledge and loves to experiment with new crops.
Who harvests the crops?
Clarke’s farmer, Nathan, harvests all of the crops, which takes 6-8 hours on one specific day each week. Nathan farms for Green City Growers, a company based out of Somerville, MA. They are a mission driven company transforming underutilized spaces into bio diverse productive landscapes, providing clients with hyper-local food while inspiring self-sufficiency. The company maintains farms on top of the roof of the Whole Foods in Lynnfield and it manages “Fenway Farms” at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, as well as the Clarke Freight Farm.
What’s the Clarke routine on harvest day?
The harvesting day begins by watering the plants one more time to ensure harvested crops will be perky and fresh, preparing packaging, and removing all towers that will be harvested that day. The first crop to be harvested are the 120 heads of Rex lettuce for Clarke’s visitors (known as Clarke’s bouquets of lettuce). This variety of butterhead lettuce is known for the beautiful rosette shape it grows into, and careful attention is taken during harvesting to choose the largest and most appealing heads. Lettuces are cleaned, packaged, and brought into the showroom, then harvesting for the Employee Shares begins.
Employees either get lettuces and leafy greens or lettuces and herbs every week. Their crop schedule alternates weekly between the two, and priority is given to the employee’s favorite crops, which are basil, radishes, parsley, kale, cilantro and oregano. Crops are harvested and packaged into 80 employee shares, and shares are brought to the employee refrigerator for them to take home and enjoy throughout the week.
Finally the chef section is harvested, where experimental crops are grown, and any extra crops from the earlier sections are included as well. These are packaged in bulk bins and brought to Clarke’s prep kitchen to be used by the chef in meals for clients throughout the week.
The entire process takes 6-8 hours, depending on whether Nathan has help or is harvesting himself.
How does Clarke’s Freight Farm support the company’s mission?
Clarke has always been dedicated to sharing knowledge about living deliciously and sustainably. Fresh, nutritious food is at the heart of the company’s philosophy. Clarke’s Freight Farm not only provides organically grown produce to showroom visitors and employees, it produces these crops with 95% less water than traditional agriculture, while producing the same amount of produce. This is because, instead of water being lost to the soil and air, water not up taken by the plants’ roots is collected and recycled, and water transpired into the container’s environment is collected, condensed, and also recycled.
This is right in line with Clarke’s dedication to sustainability. Clarke generates enough solar power from 2,304 solar panels atop Clarke’s Milford, MA building to power its entire Milford Showroom, offices and warehouse facilities. Under the leadership of President Sean Clarke and CFO Chris Parker, Clarke achieved Net Zero electrical consumption almost a decade ago, avoiding emissions equivalent to more than 40,000 gallons of gas per year.
While visitors are not able to visit inside the Freight Farm at Clarke, they can enjoy the harvested crops. If you’d like to explore all Clarke has to offer for your kitchen project, plan a visit soon.