For the past eight years, Shawn Cooney of Corner Stalk Farms has been quietly growing fresh green-leaf vegetables inside old shipping containers that have been repurposed to grow year round crops down on Condor Street along Chelsea Creek.
At last week’s Eagle Hill Civic Association meeting Cooney said he’s revisiting his plan to begin growing cannabis here in East Boston and will be seeking a grow license from the state.
“Currently we at Corner Stalk Farm produce lettuce and herbs for sale and in 2018 we got our hemp license from the US Department of Agriculture for the cultivation and manufacturing of hemp products on the same space under Cloud Farming Llc.,” said Cooney at the meeting. “We’ve been growing (hemp) in this space since 2018 with no security problems. We’re modular so we can isolate our hemp production, and future cannabis production, from our lettuce and greens production.”
However, part of urban farming is making the business sustainable for the long term. With medicinal and recreational marijuana dispensaries open for business Cooney is looking toward cannabis as a much-needed cash crop to keep Corner Stalk going.
“If we get a cannabis license, hopefully with your (EHCA) approval we will still be a lettuce farm,” explained Cooney. “We will also still be a hemp farm under the license we’ve had since 2018.”
Cooney said the hemp and cannabis growing operations would be both under Cloud Farming and if they succeed in getting a cannabis grow license from the state it will be used for cultivation and manufacturing of cannabis only.
“There will be no retail sales on site,” said Cooney. “Eventually we may be able to produce oil and rosins and sell those products to other manufacturing operations that sell to dispensaries.”
Inside the shipping containers, cannabis will be grown with hydroponics, a soil-less growing method that allows the cultivation of plants using re-circulated water with optimum nutrient inputs. Compared to the harmful chemical and grey water runoff created by industrial farming and urban pollution, Corner Stalk has no runoff and uses no pesticides or harmful chemicals. To top it off, Corner Stalk’s leverage vertical growing technology is able to grow 20 plants per square foot of farm space.
As for security, Cooney said all the grow units in the repurposed shipping containers are secure.
“They’re all metal construction, stainless steel, aluminum and corten steel,” he said. “There will be no retail on site, there’s no foot traffic, there’s no cash and there’s no transactions. They are already video monitors inside and we have a 24 hour surveillance set up with human monitoring.”
Cooney added that expanding to a cannabis grow operation could potentially bring an additional 15 living wage jobs for local residents to Corner Stalk.
Cooney’s Corner Stalk, which opened a fresh veggie stand a few years back at the Boston Public Market in downtown, specializes in using Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA). Cooney said LED lighting, temperature control and automatic water flow within insulated shipping containers creates the ideal environment that leafy greens need. A year round growing season and dense planting allow maximum productivity so when there’s a blizzard or heat wave, Cooney is still harvesting delicious leafy greens.