Chicago couple uses hydroponic farm to increase fresh produce access for all

When the pandemic made them reevaluate the future, one thing was certain: they would be giving back to those in need. Taking an entrepreneurial leap with a new hydroponic farm while increasing fresh produce access for all, Derek Drake and Brad Schiever are Chicago’s Very Own.

“I love the idea of being able to control, kind of replicate nature, so to speak, and to grow food,” Drake said. Drake and husband Schiever are the proud owners of Ditto Foods, a hydroponic farm serving up fresh produce year-round.

“We grow lettuce, leafy greens, herbs, and then we are able to grow some root vegetables, such as radish and baby carrots,” Schiever said. Operating out of Mokena, the pair opened Ditto Foods in March. This 320-square-foot trailer is delivering the equivalent of four acres of producer, all vertically. 

With shared backgrounds in food and hospitality, Drake said the idea developed during the pandemic when he found himself without a job. “It gave me the opportunity to kind of stop and level set and really look at what I wanted to do next,” he said. After extensive research, the two decided to try their hand with a hydroponic farm using a shipping container. A native of Ford Heights, Drake said the first mission of Ditto Foods is to bring access to communities known to be food deserts.

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