Ships in the Garden?

The Back of the Bennett gained a surprising new addition last week – two large, 40 ft, recycled steel shipping containers.

After 10-20 years of use, a shipping container would typically be scrapped as industrial waste. But there’s been a growing trend to reuse and retrofit these giant rectangular steel blocks – transforming them into restaurants, hotels, homes, and maybe, urban farms. Aprisa Mexican Cuisine in Portland, Oregon is operating out of a recycled shipping container – it’s easily transportable, semi-permanent, and not too costly to retrofit. Podponics, a company based in Atlanta, is remaking old shipping containers into mini hydroponic farms. And here in Chester, at the back of the Bennett, we’re getting ready to transform our recently obtained shipping containers. 

Unlike our recently constructed wooden beds, they may not immediately hold dirt, seedlings, and water (although a rooftop garden remains a strong possibility). But as we cut out windows and doors, link the two together, and increase the ventilation, we’ll gain a multiuse indoor space just beside our growing community farm.

By linking together our two parallel, 40-ft structures, we can form one large indoor, insulated space, which has already proved useful as a larger storage space (much more durable than our shed). We intend to add windows and doors, a staircase to the roof, and a produce stand to sell our own fresh produce from. The inside will become a bike storage and repair space, while also offering us indoor space protected from the sun and rain, that we can use to hold community gatherings.

The roofs may soon hold an elevated garden bed, but could also serve as a stage – perfectly located for viewers seated on the hill behind the community farm. We also might install solar panels we can use to power our sound system and power tools.

Beyond retrofitting and insulating, we’re excited to redesign and repaint these giant steel blocks together. The burnt orange sides offer a perfect space for a community mural. And it’ll be great to have a space to relax and escape the sun this summer, especially once windows, doors, and produce stands provide some well-needed cross-ventilation.

So far, there’s been some confusion and a lot of excitement – no one’s accustomed to talking about shipping in the garden, but everyone’s enthusiastic about exploring our new space, constructing a produce stand, and maybe doing some painting!



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