The people and plants are fine

By James Loomis

Freak explosion destroys infrastructure at the Green Team Farm

Late Sunday night on March 24, the Wasatch Community Gardens’ Green Team Farm in downtown Salt Lake City suffered a catastrophic explosion and fire to the heart of their operation.

The core of the farm was made up of two 40-ft. shipping containers which had been converted to house the team’s lockers, office, shop, solar power center, produce prep and packaging, walk in cooler, seed vault and farm kitchen.

According to the investigation by the Salt Lake City Fire Department, it appears this “freak accident” most likely started due to the mini fridge in the farm kitchen shorting out and igniting the foam insulation.

This shipping container was both well-sealed and hyper-insulated, and without available oxygen, the fire slowly smoldered the thick insulation. It worked its way through the seed vault, then the walk-in cooler, building up gas and pressure. This effectively turned the structure into a 40-ft. pipe bomb, and once the fire finally reached a source of oxygen the container violently exploded, igniting the rest of the surrounding area.

The main hub of the farm is a complete loss, an ill-timed accident, for it is the busiest time of the farm season.

Fortunately, no people and few plants were harmed in the accident. While suffering some minor damage, the large greenhouse filled with nearly 25,000 plants for the annual Wasatch Community Gardens plant sale survived despite being only 25 feet from the explosion and being hit with airborne debris.

The Green Team Farm crew didn’t skip a beat. They were back to work by Tuesday doing their best to make due without their key infrastructure.

In the meantime, the scene of the explosion remains a charred and chaotic mess, roped off with red caution tape as the team waits patiently for the go ahead for cleanup from the insurance company.

With our insurance claim looking to be a long and drawn out process, the Wasatch Community Gardens team is forging ahead with rebuilding the farm’s infrastructure. They have been heartened by the sympathy and support received from the community: At the time of writing over $13,000 in donations have been made; and within 72 hours of the fire, two new shipping container offices were gifted by @myminicasa and delivered to provide secure storage for the rebuild as well as for a locker area and meeting space. The team is hustling to keep on track with preparations for the spring planting season and raising the 25,000 spring starts that will be available for sale at the Wasatch Community Gardens Spring Plant Sale on Saturday, May 11.

A great deal of organizational time and resources have been, and will continue to be, diverted to ensure that WCG and the Green Team Farm can rise from these ashes and come out stronger than ever. If you are able, please consider making a donation to WCG as they tackle this unexpected challenge at a very busy time of year for our organization. Thank you!


James Loomis is a fulltime urban farmer, educator and permaculture hooligan.

This article was originally published on April 29, 2019.