How Nature’s Little Recyclers came to The Plant and gave Birth to Green Tech Chicago

There are times in your life when your priorities change and are compelled to take a new course.  One year ago, that happened to me, and through it, I discovered a whole new world within my own home city, Chicago.  At the core of my change is The Plant, the first vertical farm in the USA, and a project that answers to my new priorities of being green and being high tech.  It was John Edel and Melanie Hoekstra who helped me begin my business, Nature’s Little Recyclers.  They helped by giving me space, and also by non-judgmental, allowing me to join one of the best projects in the city today.

So let me begin at where I was, having just turned 50 in 2012, I was burned out and a wreck, after serving as a tech entrepreneur, priest and religious educator as my core profession for the last 22 years. While rewarding, allowing me to meet great and unique people, to share information on a global basis, it did not meet my inner need to create a something organically meaningful. It was then I went to the core of my faith, as a Pagan and Wiccan, deciding to combine my skills as a tech geek, with nature, creating Nature’s Little Recyclers, an earthworm farm.  For me, working in growing things and creating soil was the best thing I could do to renew myself.

I learned of The Plant in a Chicago reader story, took a tour, and loved their message.  When I met Melanie, as a tour guide, and then as Director of Operations, I told her of my idea.  She offered suggestions, and encouraged me. This was not something I was receiving in great abundance in my life, as I was older, being way older than the average startup Urban Farmer, and yet she looked passed it. Then in my interview for The Plant, John Edel, not only accept my project, he inspired me to dig deeper. He showed me how important raising earthworms, creating soil, and making quality fertilizer were important. He also showed me how to create a process that was very different from my tech and explained how to find my long term goals as part of a cycle. Not just to have a business, but how to become part of The Plant, as well as the entire Green community.

Over the next year, while Brendan and I took our ideas to different communities, including starting this blog Green Tech Chicago, The Plant was always there. The staff helped us whenever possible and was generous in their advice and understanding.  For a while, I even had a fantastic intern by the name of Jonathon, who helped bring us along. With this we were able to do events, Like the Chicago Bioneers Inaugural Conference, Midwest Urban Farmer Summit, Funding Feeding Frenzy, Tech Week Start Up City, and even the Kansas State Fair.  Without the opportunity to have start up space that shared and even surpassed my own needs and expectations, was the crucial element I needed.  Today,  Nature’s Little Recyclers is settled in the basement, selling worms, compost, and even Worm eaten Wear (clothing for all the best zombie).

Now The Plant is seeking help as well. They are seeking to rebuild their front of this old factory into a fantastic Living Foyer, a space so green and welcoming, in the heart of the Back of the Yards neighborhood.  What is a Living Foyer? It is space that connects nature, vertical farming and inspirational design to make people feel welcome and nurtured. They need our help to make it happen.

Here is a link to check it out.

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So for me without The Plant, without John, Melanie, and all the staff and businesses within, I would not have made the transition to Urban Farmer.  Moer importantly to our readers, Brendan and I would never have done this blog, Green Tech Chicago, and bringing you all these great stories about our cities efforts to create a sustainable, green, and prosperous future.

So thank you all at The Plant, and all you who read our blog.


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