US (DE): Indoor farm in Wilmington looking to get its own 'second chance'

The state's first indoor vertical farm, which gave people leaving the correctional system a job, is closing its operation on Bowers Street in Wilmington on Friday, March 18, 2022. Founder Ajit George said the book on Second Chances Farm is not done being written. "We are one more casualty of COVID," said George. "The chapter we are closing is the chapter that we never intended to do, which is, we never planned in our business to be supplying retail.

"We were forced into it when our first harvest was March 16th, 2020, and the day of our first harvest is when the Governor shut down all of the restaurants, and we had pre-sold everything we were growing to restaurants."  George said like many businesses they were able to pivot and created a Farm to Table delivery program. Second Chances practice of hiring formerly incarcerated individuals, who they called returning citizens, led to national notoriety and a visit from Trump Cabinet members U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson, in September of 2020.

George admitted the effort to support returning citizens with a job, was hampered by not having appropriate support services to assist in that effort, especially involving mental health. "I was naive in thinking that if I created a for-profit business, that I could essentially by just providing them a comfortable working environment, and pay them well, and have a supporting group that I could absolutely attack the problem in a holistic way."

Going forward George hopes to cultivate a scaled-back operation at a smaller facility focusing on providing restaurants with a limited number of specialty items. "So we are focusing on things like edible flowers, micro-greens, basil - our basil is phenomenal," said George. "I'm sad that we have to close here," said George, "but at some point, you gotta figure out a graceful surrender."

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