I was in Chicago twice over the past couple of weeks, once on a visit for a few days and then passing through O’Hare Airport with an hour to kill between flights. Both times I saw the face of the New Garden, fascinating and not always beautiful, but intensely uplifting.
|Aquaponic Arugula bed, watered from tilapia tanks, at The Plant
Two weeks ago my son & I had enough time together to spend a Saturday afternoon touring The Plant, a vertical urban farm on the south side at 47th and Ashland. It is in the middle of the old Stockyards of fame, housed in a 93,000 square foot concrete former meat packing plant. The interior of this building had been kept at below freezing for over 100 years — imagine that! — and on that chilly April day it seemed to have retained much of its coldness.
A completely visionary and masterful project, The Plant is midway in its plan to become totally functional by 2015. I will quote their “About” page here as they can explain things better than I:
What is The Plant? A Farm for the Future.
From its beginnings as a 93,500 s.f. meatpacking facility, The Plant is being repurposed into a net-zero energy vertical farm and food business operation. A complex and highly interrelated system, one-third of The Plant will hold aquaponic growing systems and the other two-thirds will incubate sustainable food businesses by offering low rent, low energy costs, and (eventually) a licensed shared kitchen. The Plant will create 125 jobs in Chicago’s economically distressed Back of the Yards neighborhood – but, remarkably, these jobs will require no fossil fuel use. Instead, The Plant will install a renewable energy system that will eventually divert over 10,000 tons of food waste from landfills each year to meet all of its heat and power needs.