Who doesn’t love a good field trip? My team and I recently took one to East Garfield Park, and what an experience it was!

Our first stop was The Garfield Produce Hydroponic Farm where we explored the “farm to table” initiative and learned how their services are helping low income communities and people living in poverty. About one year ago, The Garfield Produce Hydroponic Farm was established, in an effort to create jobs for underprivileged people in the area. According to the Chicago Tribune, East Garfield Park has an unemployment level of 16.4 % and the households below poverty level are at 39.7%. Hence why this location is essential! I’m a bit biased as the Farm was started by some very dear friends, but not only will their mission melt your heart…their produce will make you rethink your lettuce selections entirely.

The Farm operates out of a warehouse and grows items using a hydroponic system (which long story short is a lamp and running water). They are still in the process of deciding what to grow, but thus far have had success with kale, baby arugula, pea tendrils, micro greens and fresh herbs to name a few. Since everything is grown in water, there’s no need for pesticides, harmful chemicals, or soil. Bonus – this method also saves water! They use significantly less water than farms use and the process is naturally accelerated.

In a city with hundreds of caterers and restaurants, fresh produce only about five miles from the Loop is amazing! Plus, with four weeks’ notice, Garfield Produce will customize orders for any purchaser. The options are endless too – salads, garnishes, create your own micro green cocktail, etc. It doesn’t get much healthier (or inventive) than that! The flavors are bold, interesting, and the leaves have a velvety texture because they are so fresh. I promise you – their products last longer and taste better than any store bought lettuce.

The next stop on our adventure was a restaurant called Inspiration Kitchen, just a few blocks away. Much like the mission of the Garfield Hydroponic Farm, Inspiration Kitchen’s goal is to help impoverished and homeless people finds jobs and establish working skills. Every year they help over 3,000 families affected by poverty. With two restaurant locations (one in Uptown and one in Garfield Park), they provide American Cuisine, restaurant training, plus tools and resources vital to personal growth. The organization offers programs for people to receive GEDs and food service training, computers for job searches, and counselors to help talk about jobs and how to get on track. The Garfield Park location was able to help over 450 homeless and low-income individuals find jobs in the food service industry.

Inspiration Kitchen sources greens from Garfield Produce, so it was wonderful to taste and see how they incorporated these into their menu items. The team had a massive dinner and a wonderful experience overall! Some favorites included the Louisiana Crab Fish, Poached Anjou Pear Mesclun Salad, and their famous Fried Green Tomatoes. The outing gave the entire team a new perspective on life – we were inspired by the work these great organizations are doing to help the community, learned all about the hydroponic farm innovation, and had a blast trying new foods at the Inspiration Kitchen. All in all a success!

I highly recommend visiting both Garfield Produce Hydroponic Farm and Inspiration Kitchens the next time you’re in the mood for a little inspiration yourself!