Indoor farm in Milwaukee 'hacks' nature to grow food all year long

There's a place in Milwaukee, this frozen, snowy city where the growing season never ended. Hundred Acre Farm put down roots in a warehouse at Milwaukee's Century City business park in the summer of 2021. Chris Corkery says this proves his idea of bringing hydroponic farming to inhospitable places works. "Century City and this warehouse, in particular, seemed like the perfect fit for us to come in and establish ourselves, and maybe one day this is our headquarters, too," Corkery said.

As Wisconsin is months away from seeing anything grow outside, the team here is hard at work on "hacking" Mother Nature. Right now, the crops growing in plastic troughs are salad greens and basil. "You have irrigation on one end, drainage on the other, a pitch for gravity, let nature do its work," Corkery said.

The green, leafy crops started as seedlings in the farm's nursery. After about 10 days, they move into the heart of the farm and take off growing. "That's really where things get beefed up," Corkery explained. "It's hyper-efficient light, the same conditions every day, the proper balance of carbon dioxide, heat, airflow, nutrients. All these things are working in favor of optimum plant growth and that's why you're seeing about a 5-week turnaround." That means a crop to harvest every week.

"The real goal here is back to the people. We're not interested in having a farm run by machines or calling up day labor. We want to create sustainable careers and the only way to do that is to have full-time meaningful engagement," Corkery said.

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