Containerized Farm

I love and hate shipping containers as farm infrastructure.

We have four shipping containers and five tractor trailer boxes serving in some capacity on the farm.  They provide modular, low-entry cost flexibility our farm has found essential. I don’t think we could have afforded to build out our farm’s business selling pasture raised chicken and grass fed beef if we also were trying cash flow the construction of traditional barns. So I love them. But I also am always frustrated by containers.  They also are always just a little too inadequate.

This container is a walk-in freezer.  It is an insulated food grade container, previously used for overseas transport for bananas, now retrofitted with our refrigeration equipment. We put an extra door in the middle because shipping container doors are a pain to work with if they are being opened and closed on a daily basis.
This shipping container has storage for all the parts and repair items for managing our pasture raised chickens.  Looking at the picture, I’m reminded that it is time for a cleanup.
Here we store all our order packing supplies.  We need to build some shelving and dividers in there to help with the organization.

Containers don’t offer the visual appeal of a classic bank barn or the impressive storage capacity of a pole barn.  But they do give us valuable flexibility as we continue to adapt our farm.  Permanent buildings would tie us down and prevent us from being able to adjust our farm businesses.

My biggest gripe with containers is that they are too narrow.  The 8 foot width dictates that only one half of the container can be loaded with pallets, otherwise I lose my aisle.  If I fill the aisle then everything needs to be unpacked to remove something near the back.  A 12 foot wide container would be tremendously more efficient, even if it would be more of a hassle to move on the roads.

In the next year or two I’m going to need to step up our freezer space beyond what a single shipping container can provide.  And by then it probably will be time to commit to a “real” building.  But I’m confident that even with a purpose-built building I’ll still find uses for the containers we have now.

2 Comments on “Containerized Farm

  1. Could you not find a way to remove two adjoining walls and weld two units together? I think I’ve seen containers used to build unusual houses, and if I’m remembering right, the rooms were not 8 feet wide.

    • Yes, containers can be modified in those ways. This is less practical for the insulated freezer containers because of thermal bridging and moisture management versus the simpler general purpose containers. At some point with radical modification to any container extra structural reinforcements are needed, water and vapor sealing at roof and floor joints becomes an issue, and the cost effectiveness of container-based solutions diminish.

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