Second Chances Farm founder Ajit Mathew George recently announced that he has reached an agreement with Philadelphia developer Michael Bailkin, who will invest the capital needed to open a 30,000 square feet farm – roughly 10 times larger than Second Chances Farm’s current operation – with enough space to eventually expand to 100,000 square feet.
The farm will be part of the North Station redevelopment of several million sq. ft. of vacant buildings and land near the Temple University campus being led by Bailkin’s Arete Group.
Second Chances Farm will not be putting capital into the project but is considered a minority partner because staff from the Wilmington operation will be sent to Philadelphia to help get the new farm up and running. The new farm is slated to open in 2021. Michael said that he intends to use Philadelphia as a headquarters site, while opening satellite farms in “older industrial cities” throughout Pennsylvania.
Michael has been very interested in indoor vertical farming for a long time, and his wife, Billie, and son, Cole, were looking at a whole range of opportunities.
“And then we met Ajit about a year ago,” he says, who is active in Opportunity Zones, “and we became very intrigued by the technical approach that he had, setting up a vertical farm, and doing that in a way that was going to make a major social impact by bringing in returned citizens and providing a job base and other opportunities for them. It was the combination of those two things that made us focus on doing something with our budget and over the next year or so, we continued working with him.”
Michael and Second Chances Farm agreed to do a large project in Philadelphia, essentially as the headquarters, at least the regional, possibly national, headquarters for expansion. Starting off with a 30,000 sq. ft. facility with a potential to expand it up to a 100,000 sq. ft., they will open a series of smaller units, of 15 to 20,000 sq. ft. in Opportunity Zones in some of the older industrial cities in Pennsylvania like Scranton, Coatesville and Norristown, while also doing economic development in those cities. The most important consideration will be on creating opportunities for second chance citizens.
The second target of the partnership is to provide healthy food for areas that are food deserts, which most of these opportunities are. The third is economic development, which is what Michael brings to the table. “Second Chances Farm will be the anchor and catalyst for other economic development activities in each of these opportunities zones,” Bailkin says.
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