Back in May 2017, Saint Joseph’s College changed the way our campus approaches sustainability by bringing in an old freight container recommissioned to outfit a small-scale hydroponic farming operation. Since then, the farm has been transformed into a fully developed, student-run, highly productive on-site greens factory. Opportunities like this one shape the lives of all students at Saint Joe’s, and the Freight Farm certainly shifted the educational and personal trajectory of Senior Rebecca Barruli. Rebecca is a student worker at the Freight Farm, and her work is helping make our campus a more eco-friendly, future-facing, and exciting place for all. Rebecca is majoring in Marine Science and Environmental Science with minors in Biology and Sustainability and says that she owes her professional future to the experiences she was lucky enough to find here at the college. When she entered Saint Joe’s as a freshman, she knew she wanted to pursue the sciences, but was unaware of all that she would find during her journey, how much she would love working at the Freight Farm, and how learning about sustainable agriculture would shape her future.
Rebecca says that the thing she finds most remarkable looking back over her time at Saint Joe’s is the strong sense of community that surrounded her every step of the way. She has loved being a part of a place where she is “constantly surrounded by support,” and she says that the nurturing and welcoming environment at Saint Joseph’s has allowed her to grow in ways that she didn’t know were possible. Rebecca got involved with the sustainability efforts on campus as a part of her on-campus job in the food service department, and she now oversees harvesting, transplanting, and seeding at the Freight Farm, which is a small-scale test operation for the much larger hydroponic farm being built across the street near the Stone Barn. The Freight Farm is currently producing 30-40 pounds of lettuce a week and provides 60% of the lettuce served in the school’s cafeteria, Pearson’s Cafe. Rebecca explained that the farm produces two different types of lettuce for Pearson’s: a leafy green lettuce for salads and flat leaf lettuce for the sandwich bar. The farm also produces kale and edible flowers for revenue.
Rebecca feels that the Freight Farm is an especially vital and unique part of the sustainability efforts on campus, as it has a direct impact on our college community and can be worked directly into other departments, such as food service and even academics. The school offers a Sustainability minor, which Rebecca is a part of thanks to her work on the farm, and has also introduced the Freight Farm operation into other classes and campus activities through community-based learning, where students have the opportunity to interact with the farm as a part of their course work, to make improvements and help the operation be more efficient.
Although she came to Saint Joe’s with the intent to work in Marine Science, Rebecca’s time working at the farm shifted her area of focus. She is now talking with the Freight Farm company based in Boston about joining them full time after her upcoming graduation. Rebecca says she owes a lot to Saint Joe’s, and that the opportunities she has found here have been absolutely amazing. On the Freight Farm, and the role that it has played in her life, she says this: “I fell in love with it, I fell in love with what it does.” Rebecca says that her favorite part of her job at the farm, and the thing that she finds most rewarding, is giving tours of the facility. She loves watching as people’s faces light up with joy and wonder when they see it for the first time.
Rebecca says the missions of the Freight Farm, and its larger sister farm currently in development across the street, align themselves perfectly with the core values of the college and have deepened her understanding of the agricultural and sustenance issues that we currently face, as well as what she—and we all—can do to help.