Local farmers open virtual farmers market to fill gap left by restaurant orders during COVID-19

ByZach Ben-Amots WLS logo
Monday, March 30, 2020
Local farmers open virtual farmers market to fill gap left my restaurant orders during COVID-19
The closing of restaurants during COVID-19 has also impacted food adjacent industries, and local Chicago farmers are finding unique ways to pivot their businesses in virtual farmer

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Adam Pollack is used to a strict schedule of seeding, harvesting and delivering microgreens to the top ranked restaurants in Chicago. But as restaurants have been forced to close their doors during the COVID-19 outbreak, adjacent industries have also been forced to adapt.

"One of the things that this crisis brings to light is that, as a whole, we're very dependent on long supply chains," said Pollack, the founder of Closed Loop Farms.

"But it also shines a light on how important the restaurant industry is to auxiliary industries, the different industries that are based on supplying restaurants."

Closed Loop Farms specializes in producing microgreens - produce harvested at a very early stage, when it is most nutrient-dense - and edible flowers.

They operate in the Back of the Yards neighborhood out of The Plant, a business incubator for sustainable food products and experimental projects.

"Many of our food businesses are on temporary hiatus because their serve restaurants and bars," said The Plant's owner John Edel.

"Others are working like mad to fill orders."

Nearly all of Closed Loop's restaurant customers disappeared overnight, when Governor J.B. Pritzker ordered the closure of all restaurants and bars to public seating.

So Pollack and his business pivoted.

Closed Loop Farms now runs a virtual farmers market from its website. The market includes their own products, along with other local, sustainably produced food from around Chicago.

"It kind of represented an opportunity really just to be able to provide a useful service to people at a time that people are staying at home," Pollack said.

Some of those products are from co-tenants at The Plant, such as honey and kombucha. Other products are sourced from around the city, including meats, drinks, tinctures, and mushrooms.

Orders can be placed on the farm's website: ClosedLoop.Farm. Boxes are delivered right to your door.

"We really wanted to be able to bring the entire farmers market to your doorstep," Pollack said.

Pollack has been able to keep all of his employees on staff for the time being, although they've had to cut back on hours and production.

He is hoping that more people embrace using microgreens in their home cooking, so that this direct-to-consumer delivery program can remain a part of his business, even when things return to normal.

"Hopefully it makes us - as a business, as a farm, as a community - more resilient and more diversified," Pollack said.