Our family first discovered The Plant about two and a half years ago. We were suckered in by a food truck rally…a generally excellent way to sucker us in to most things. The food was decent, but the highlight was definitely the tour of the facility. The brainchild of John Edel, who I like to imagine is some sort of eccentric millionaire, The Plant is one of the more ambitious forays into urban farming I have ever come across. We have taken several tours since our first visit, each time finding plenty new changes. It is definitely worth the $7 to check out the ambitious closed loop, from the aquaponics farm (using spent grains from the brewery) to the algae bioreactor (using waste from the shrimp farm.)
Saturday we did not take the tour and I’m not going to get into how the place works today. Yes, it is far more interesting than anything I’m going to post, but I just don’t have the time (or really the understanding) to do it justice right now. Maybe later. What interests me more today are the ways The Plant is working to integrate itself and increase awareness within its Back of the Yards community. Being a prototype for sustainable, community-centered farming is a monumental task and its success will be dependent on the extent to which they are able to educate and mobilize the neighborhood.
The Plant runs an indoor farmer’s market on the first Saturday of each winter month. They run one weekly in the summer, but a winter market, at the deadest time of the year, is what keeps us coming back. Many of the booths belong to businesses that rent space and participate in The Plant’s ecosystem. Others are based in the community and beyond. The market gives neighborhood residents a place to pick up fresh, organic produce. We picked up some mushrooms, but honestly we were far more drawn to the tamales and vegan ice cream. The ice cream was made at The Plant. In my opinion…it was fine, but I prefer my ice cream to be less vegan. The ladies loved the gluten free waffle cones, though. Nicole actually suggested buying some to snack on plain. Seriously…
I guess you could say beer is my gluten free waffle cone. Tour guides have been dangling the promise of a tasting room since we started coming here and now it is finally open. Whiner Beer (get it?) is open for business and serving a room full of mustachioed hipsters too cool for IPA’s Whiner has chosen to focus on barrel aged saisons.
Olivia said The Plant is one of the places that makes her the happiest and I agree. Every time I leave here I feel inspired by the potential of this model. I’m pleased to see things are coming together nicely and I hope the surrounding neighborhood is taking notice. As we exited the building a young girl glanced in Olivia’s bag and exclaimed, “Daddy! They have a new kombucha flavor!” This seems like a good sign.