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Container Farms and Senior Living Communities

Senior living communities worldwide are finding new and innovative ways to keep their residents fed, healthy and happy. Food can be a difference-maker in your community, uniting residents in a communal space. The dining room is a community hub and is key to retaining and attracting new residents.

That’s why focusing on improving the taste and experience of dining should be a key priority of your community development plan. In this blog, you’ll learn how senior living container farms build community, reinforce healthy eating practices and engage their residents in mind-strengthening activities.

What is a Shipping Container Farm?

A container farm is an indoor micro-farm housed inside a shipping container. They can grow a variety of crops: from leafy greens to herbs, vegetables and microgreens. Containers offer a cost-effective and durable base that manufacturers can modify to outfit them with everything they need for year-round climate-controlled growth.

A container farm combines three innovative indoor farming techniques to cultivate crops:

  1. They use hydroponic growing systems instead of traditional farming methods. This means container farms use water to deliver nutrients to plants instead of soil.
  2. They use vertical farming techniques to maximize yield in a small space. Vertical farming grows crops in stacked layers, on towers, or shelves. This way, more crops can be grown per square foot than traditional farming methods.
  3. Container farms use controlled environment agriculture (CEA) technology. This tech lets you replicate the ideal climate for your crops by adjusting environmental factors, including humidity and temperature.

When combined with high-powered grow lights, these three techniques help container farms produce large yields in a compact space.

How Container Farms Help Senior Living Communities

Container farms offer a transformative solution for senior living communities by directly bringing fresh, nutrient-rich produce to their doorstep. These compact and self-contained systems sustainably grow a wide range of vegetables and herbs indoors. This ensures year-round produce availability and reduces reliance on external food suppliers. Let’s take a closer look at how container farms help senior living communities.

A busy farmers market with various fruits and vegetables for sale.
Farmers markets are a great source for fresh, nutritious produce. But these market environments can present challenges for elderly people with limited mobility. A container farm can provide the benefits of freshly-harvested fruits and vegetables to residents that cannot buy produce from the farmers market or other physical marketplaces.

Joining the Local Food Movement

Adding a container farm can make your community part of a local food movement. A local food movement connects producers and consumers in the same geographic region. It seeks to develop self-reliant and resilient food networks, improve local economies and promote the health of the environment and the wider community.

The average piece of produce has traveled over 1,200 miles to a grocery store, and it’s a little bit of a long journey to the doors of your community. That’s equivalent in length to four and a half Grand Canyons! When produce has that long of a delivery, nutrition declines and the likelihood of produce spoilage increases.

The local food movement strives to shrink that distance as much as possible. It prioritizes the needs of local communities over multinational supply chains and can help invigorate community life. Instead of buying produce from continents away, the local food movement hopes to connect producers and consumers and establish a more stable food system that works for everyone.

It Lowers Food Costs

With container farms, you can serve healthier, more nutritious food while lowering your community’s produce costs. Container farms use 90% less water than traditional farms.

If there’s one thing seniors hate more than bingo cancelations, it’s unhealthy and bad-tasting food. A recent Navigator Group Purchasing and Managed Health Care Associates white paper found that 96% of SLC professionals rank dining as slightly important (22%) or very important (74%) in marketing their senior living community.

Your dining room is where your residents catch up with friends, interact with their favorite servers and eat their meals. It’s central to your community, so you should make sure the time residents have there is well spent.

A container farm shows you’re committed to providing residents with high-quality produce. That will pay dividends when residents and visitors can trust that their food is as good for them as it looks.

It Helps Keeps Seniors Active

An elderly woman working out in a gym.
Its important for seniors to have an active lifestyle, but this is only half of the battle. Elderly people may need less calories than younger people, but their nutrient requirements are just as high, if not higher. That means that eating well is just as important as remaining active.

Another excellent reason to add a container farm to your senior living community is that most seniors love to farm. In addition to this, there are various health benefits associated with farming. Increased physical activity can prevent osteoporosis and reduce the risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes, depression and heart disease.

While not all seniors will have the ability or desire to help assist in a container farm, it will surely attract many eyes (and walkers) from your community’s residents. Mechanic-minded residents may be curious to discover how the container’s systems work together, while green-thumbed residents will enjoy tracking crop growth.

Whatever their engagement with the container farm, it’s sure to be a central part of your communities’ activities, scheduled or not!

A Senior Living Center Case Study

A few years ago, a senior living community in Virginia wanted to improve the lives of its residents and their families after noticing the benefits of fresh and locally produced vegetables. They wanted their residents to experience the benefits of eating fresher produce: reduced blood pressure, lower risk of heart disease and increased brain activity.

In 2015, Commonwealth Senior Living at Charlottesville in Charlottesville, Va., introduced a hydroponic garden inside its dining facility to solve this problem. Residents can select from over 45 varieties of leafy greens, herbs and microgreens grown in-house, which has increased the consumption of leafy greens by 35%. Commonwealth has since expanded its program by adding more farms. It also started a new fruit and vegetable growing program for seniors.

In 2020, Commonwealth received Argentum’s Best of the Best Award for its hydroponic farming program. That year, Commonwealth grew over 24,000 plants and reduced its corporate climate footprint by 20,000 gallons of fuel annually. Residents can select the produce they want the community to grow and help plant, transplant and harvest inside their onsite farm.

The Next Step

Want to see how Pure Greens container farms can impact your senior living center? You can start by setting up a discovery call with us. On this call, we will answer all your questions about buying a container farm for your senior living community. Fill out the contact form, and our friendly farming experts will contact you with more information.