Wilder Fields plans to fully open in 2023
CALUMET CITY, Ill. (WLS) -- A vertical farm is coming to the south suburbs.
The anchor of a Calumet City strip mall at 1717 East-West Road left five years ago. Now a local small business plans to turn this red store -- green.
"We'll be growing a whole range of leafy green, many of which may be familiar to the consumer, many of which the consumer has never tasted," Wilder Fields Founder Jake Counne said. "We're really excited to blow people's minds with varieties they've never had."
Wilder Fields operates a vertical farm in Chicago, and will open a larger location in the south suburbs, selling produce locally to residents, restaurants and markets by making use of all the space, floor to ceiling.
"To be able to take big-box space like this and reintroduce jobs that might have been lost, boosting the foot traffic that might have been lost ... to come in and revitalize that corridor is really exciting for us," Counne said.
The red paint was from the previous tenant. Target had been there for 20 years, but closed in 2015.
For those in the area, a small business growing produce and adding jobs is welcomed news.
"Twenty four acres of farmland in the 135,000-square-foot building is pretty exciting when you think about it," Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush said.
Calumet City 7th Ward Alderman Anthony Smith agrees.
"We've been a food desert for a number of years so this actually fills that void," Smith said. "(It) allows us to get fresh produce and at an affordable price and bring jobs."
Residents think it's a great idea, too.
"To have an indoor farm that we can come to year-round will be phenomenal," Vicki Brown said
Wilder Fields plans to start production next year and be fully operational in 2023, with not only retail space but an Education Center to show how their organic greens are grown year-round indoors vertically.