Written by Lynn Miller
Three years ago, Adam Pollock, founder and head farmer of Closed Loop Farms went on a mission. He wanted to find ways to grow microgreens in ways that met the needs of high-end restaurants. Why? During his time as a cook, Adam noticed working with the ingredients was a challenge.
Pollock realized if he could grow and harvest microgreens differently, it would make cooks’ jobs easier. Pollack didn’t want to stop there.
When Adam Pollack decided to start a farm, he wanted to implement ethical hiring practices, help promote food justice and access, and contribute to the local economy. This was the inspiration behind starting Closed Loop Farms, the largest Microgreen grower in Chicago.
During my interview with Pollock, he gave an example of how he harvests microgreens differently. He explained:
“Mustard greens and Kale are normally sold by the bunch or by the pound. This means cooks in top restaurants need to spend a lot of time preparing serving sizes of each ingredient. I wanted to grow microgreens and prepare them in ways that the cooking team wanted and needed, in a socially responsible way.”
Adam named his company, “Closed Loop Farms” to communicate why and how he wants to help cooks use more microgreens what they need while using sustainable practices. I wasn’t familiar with the term “closed loop farming,” and found more information.
An article in Resillience.org describes Closed loop agriculture as “a farming practice that recycles all nutrients and organic matter material back to the soil that it grew in . . . This forms part of an agricultural practice that preserves the nutrient and carbon levels within the soil and allows farming to be carried out on a sustainable basis.”
Why Microgreens are a “Superfood”
According to Closed Loop Farms, “Microgreens are seedling versions of larger vegetables, containing 4 – 40 X the nutrient density of their respective fully grown vegetables! All of our microgreens are grown in organic potting soil with no synthetic fertilizer or pesticides applied. We hand-cut all of our greens and deliver them to your door within 24 hours of harvest, so they are as fresh and nutrient rich as possible when you receive them.”
Closed Loop Farms packages ingredients and products for customers in their Back of the Yards location at The Plant and sees “waste as an opportunity.”
Pollock explains “Microgreens when cut, along with any waste from the materials we use for planting, are spread across the outdoor farm.” Closed Loop Farms’ Microgreens business was thriving. Training programs and hiring partnerships with After School Matters, Windy City Harvest, and Urban Growers’ Collective helped Pollock honor his commitment to offering employees fair wages and benefits.
By March of 2020, Closed Loop Farms employed 12 people, 10 who live no more than 2 miles from their Back of the Yards location at 1048 W. 37th St.
Then COVID-19 hit and restaurants were quickly shutting their doors. When their main source of revenue started evaporating, Closed Loop Farms pivoted. Within the next 1 to 2 weeks, Adam Pollock and his team shifted into high gear and set up a “Farmers’ Market Delivery Business” and kept all 12 employees working.
Pollock and his team purchased large quantities of packing supplies, implemented a new online ordering system, and quickly leveled-up their skills. Jobs now include Microgreen production, accounts payable, supervising packing of boxes for deliveries, sourcing products from additional vendors, and placing orders with vendors.
The farm now serves as the “online front door” to a broad range of local products made and grown at The Plant and beyond. Customers can order products from a growing number of local businesses listed in their online shop, for home delivery.
Part of Pollock’s commitment to social responsibility is supporting racial justice. To that end, Closed Loop Farms held a fund raiser for two Black-owned farms. They raffled off two 4-week subscriptions to Closed Loop Farms’ Salad Club Subscription Box. The first farmer and former intern at Closed Loop Farms Lashawn Miller, is co-founder of Finding Justice Garden. The second was Urban Growers Collective – A not-for-profit, Black-run farm focused on food justice and access.
Now that restaurants are opening up, Closed Loop Farms will have two revenue streams, enabling them to sell more microgreens and products than ever before, while continuing to hire more people.
About The Plant
The Plant is a 100,000 sq. ft. facility. It serves as a collaborative community of small food businesses committed to material reuse and closed-loop systems currently houses more than twenty small businesses, including indoor and outdoor farms, kombucha and beer breweries, a bakery, a cheese distributor, a coffee roaster and other emerging food producers and distributors.
As of the fall of 2019, there are approximately 95 full-time employee equivalent positions based at the facility. The Plant is still under construction and is approximately 85% leased, with full build-out anticipated for 2020.