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Minnesota freight farm Route 1 giving farmers of color space to grow

Medina farmer looks to grow crops inside for people in need
Medina farmer looks to grow crops inside for people in need 01:58

MEDINA, Minn. — Many Minnesota farmers are getting ready for planting season. And in Medina, farmer Marcus Carpenter is also looking to grow crops inside.

"I'm a fourth-generation farm kid. We had 180 acres in northeast Arkansas," Carpenter said.

Since a young age, farming has been a passion for Carpenter. Like others, he's hoping Mother Nature cooperates this spring.

But good weather isn't a necessity for part of his operation.

"The awesome thing about the freight farm is you can grow over 500 different varieties of foods," he said. 

Last month, Carpenter received a shipping container from Boston. A company there called Freight Farm saves them from junkyards and then adds technology, electricity and water so crops can grow inside.

The freight farm is 8 feet by 40 feet. The crops grown inside will be the equivalent of 4 acres of farmland.  

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But these will be no ordinary operation. Carpenter is the founder of Route 1, an organization focused on bringing the farm to the people, especially in under-served communities. That means growing a variety of foods.

"Foods like a western African crop called managu, and there's a crop called sagaa," he said. "The awesome part about our vision is that we're trying to really take these culturally relevant foods and really drop them right down in the middle of communities that need them."

By June, he hopes to deliver hydroponic crops to Route 1's farmers market in Hopkins. Helping him on the farm will be emerging Black, Brown and Indigenous farmers. The inspiration and the name come from his great-grandmother who bought an Arkansas farm in 1914.  

"Her name is Sally May Robinson Carpenter," he said. "She grew it to 180 acres with my great-grandfather. They had 13 kids and they all lived on one, old country road, and it was called Route 1."

Now Route 1 is taking a different path, one Carpenter hopes helps those who need it most.

"Being able to just introduce folks who may not have access to agriculture to a new way of farming," he said. 

Carpenter said Route 1 has the first Black-owned freight farm in Minnesota. At the Medina location, he also hopes to teach young people about where their food comes from, and how to grow it inside and out. 

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