FoodPort: Smart Growth for West Louisville

In February I had the good fortune to attend the New Partners for Smart Growth conference, having been asked to speak on a panel focused on value chain innovation clusters. I was especially pleased to be amongst such a professionally diverse group, including elected officials from every level, city planners, architects, nonprofit executives, realtors, arts groups, advocates for equity and environmental justice, and more.

My co-presenters were Dan Carmody, President of Eastern Market Corporation in Detroit, and Sydney DeLuna, Program Manager of The Redd on Salmon Street in Portland, Oregon. In what was really more of a conversation than presentation, we discussed the challenges and opportunities of developing community-scale food infrastructure, including how food innovation districts can serve as anchors for jobs creation and retention, economic development, innovation and entrepreneurship. We talked about how to incorporate communities of color and disadvantaged communities in this work and how to steward resources of land and water. We also talked about the opportunity that these projects afford to connect urban and rural communities.

It was interesting and exciting to see the West Louisville FoodPort project juxtaposed between the Eastern Market, the largest historic market in the US (with a legacy dating back to the 1800s—think Louisville’s Hay Market if only we had had the foresight to keep it around), and the Redd on Salmon Street, a small-scale, new urban venture that is more of an incubator for small food businesses. While there are many differences in our projects—including distinct differences in our geographies, cultures, histories, settings, sizes and approaches—the things we share in common are quite compelling. In particular, we share a focus on developing and maintaining collaborative enterprises that strengthen local food systems, increase the commons, bridge gaps that divide people from one another and divide people from their food sources, create stronger and more abundant connections with regional (often rural) food producers, and create economic, cultural, environmental and community benefits.

In fact, it was clear from our time together that we share key values in our approaches to food system development, and that it was no surprise that we would be presenting at a “smart growth” event focused on “practical tools and innovative strategies for creating great communities.” Despite our differences, we all are focused on developing robust food systems as a way to create economic, environmental, and social opportunities in our cities.

Of course, for the West Louisville FoodPort, unlike the Eastern Market, or even The Redd, the proof still largely remains in the pudding. We have a few victories to celebrate, to be sure: the West Louisville FoodPort Community Council with its active membership and dedicated work groups; a well-considered, collaboratively developed workforce development plan that has already resulted in the first new hires from West Louisville into Messer’s construction career path jobs; the stunning design of what will become a landmark for our city. But much of the promise of this remarkable vision will continue to materialize in the months and years ahead. While we continue to look to models like Eastern Market, The Redd and others for lessons learned as we forge our path, at the same time we confidently proceed to create what will surely be a model for others as well. Westward ho!

Written by: Project Director and Co-Founder Caroline Heine

“Salad in a Box” at the Phoenix School of Discovery

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Written by Director of Strategic Partnerships, Charles Booker:

On Friday, January 29th, I joined Community Council member Chad Rehnberg and other business leaders to meet with an amazing class of students at the Phoenix School of Discovery. These brilliant students, let by Principal Ken Moeller, are working in a curriculum supported by the Lead 2 Feed Student Leadership Program. Realizing the tremendous need of families for access to fresh food, the students were inspired to invent personalized, residential hydroponic growing systems. They call their invention, “Salad in a Box.”

After months of testing, the students have built a successful product. It is smaller than a dining room table, and has the capacity to grow leafy green and other smaller vegetables. At our meeting, the students presented their vision and journey in developing the product. We were able to have a brainstorming session, where we thought through ways they could create a business model, potential customers, and even ideas of bringing their product to the FoodPort. More than anything, we were able to inspire the students to follow their dreams. I was able to share personal stories of adversity, and affirm that nothing is impossible.

These students are passionate about helping families have access to food. This was a beautiful discussion following the major news that FarmedHere was moving to the FoodPort. We discussed that development, and assessed how it served as an actual example of how successful their product can be. The students committed to fine-tuning their project, and asked if we would return to work with them. It will be more than an honor to do so.

Neighborhood WiFi Project

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Written by Director of Strategic Partnerships, Charles Booker:

On Wednesday, January 27th, Metro TV and the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team conducted interviews regarding the neighborhood WiFi project implemented in the Russell Neighborhood. I was honored to participate in these interviews. The WiFi project is the continuation of a broader set of initiatives I managed while working as Project Manager for the Innovation Delivery Team. The neighborhood WiFi project consists of placing access points in strategic locations along key corridors in efforts to create a mesh network for residents and businesses to have access to wireless coverage.

The impact of this project is anchored by the FoodPort development. Our rationale was simple: the FoodPort has the potential to be a transformative catalyst in a distressed neighborhood. Recognizing this, the Innovation Delivery Team raised the argument that bringing such a major development to a struggling area must be accompanied by efforts to empower the community. That entailed looking at holistic needs in the community. Access is one of those needs, and the neighborhood WiFi project was a concept to help bridge the digital divide.

The WiFi project is very dynamic. Not only did we place access points on businesses and homes, we also installed solar powered trash cans that serve as hotspots as well. The FoodPort speaks to the innovation behind this project, as we seek to serve as a platform to cluster resources in a way that creates synergy for growth. By providing greater connectivity, businesses can scale up their services, and residents can expand their reach to tools they need to live gainful lives.

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FarmedHere Announces Plans to Open New Indoor Vertical Farm at the FoodPort

FarmedHere Announces Plans to Open New Indoor Vertical Farm in Louisville, Kentucky

North America’s largest indoor vertical farm has partnered with Seed Capital KY to develop a new farm at the West Louisville FoodPort.

LOUISVILLE, KY – (Jan. 28, 2016) — FarmedHere, North America’s largest and longest-running organic indoor vertical farm, today announced plans to open a new location at the West Louisville FoodPort in Louisville, KY. A project of Seed Capital KY, the West Louisville FoodPort is a new development poised to become one of the most transformative urban reinvestment projects of the decade. On a 24-acre campus, the FoodPort will locate food-related businesses in one place where they can buy food from local farmers and hire neighbors for jobs.

In addition, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) today granted FarmedHere preliminary approval for tax incentives up to $400,000 through the Kentucky Business Investment program. This performance-based incentive allows FarmedHere to keep a portion of its approximately $23.5 million investment over the agreement term through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments by meeting job and investment targets. FarmedHere plans to hire 40 new employees in Louisville, many of which will be veterans and second-chance employees.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said: “FarmedHere’s sustainable practices and compassionate hiring policy make it an ideal community partner in west Louisville. The addition of this innovative company to the West Louisville FoodPort affirms our commitment to giving every citizen an opportunity for a healthy lifestyle by making locally grown food easily accessible.”

FarmedHere CEO Matt Matros said: “This new location will bring us one step closer to reaching our goal of building vertical farms in 18 cities across the country and feeding 75% of the United States’ population. With a projected 9.6 billion people on earth by 2050, alternative forms of agriculture are becoming more important, especially in urban areas where adequate farmland is limited. We are grateful for the support of Seed Capital Kentucky, KEDFA, Governor Bevin, Mayor Fischer and Louisville Forward as we begin the process of creating Louisville’s first commercial-scale vertical farm. ”

The new 60,000-square-foot farm will feature 10 rows of vertical grow beds and dedicated space for sorting and packaging microgreens, herbs, salad dressings, baby food and more. This means Louisville and the approximately 18.2 million people living within 200 miles will have access to freshly harvested, USDA certified organic and pesticide-free produce 365 days a year.

Caroline Heine, co-founder and Project Director of Seed Capital KY said: “This is a fantastic affirmation of the promise of the FoodPort. FarmedHere sees the value of this integrated, public-private-nonprofit partnership, and has chosen to expand its business here, bringing investment, jobs and relationships, and offering a year-round supply of healthy, locally-grown food to our community. We could not be more excited.”

Construction on the West Louisville FoodPort is expected to begin in August 2016.

About FarmedHere

The largest and longest-running organic vertical farm in the country, Chicago-based FarmedHere has been producing 100% USDA certified organic basil, baby kale, baby cabbage, microgreens and salad dressing since 2011. Over-farming, pollution and drought are making traditional agriculture more and more difficult. FarmedHere’s method of farming is completely pesticide-free and eliminates many of the variables that plague outdoor farming, such as weather, droughts and pest infestations. By growing entirely indoors with energy-efficient LED lights and the ability to sustain a controlled environment, FarmedHere produces 15 times as many crop cycles annually as traditional farming and uses 97% less water. FarmedHere is on a mission to create a more sustainable food future by changing the way Americans get their food. For more information, please visit www.farmedhere.com.

About Seed Capital KY

Seed Capital KY is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization created to catalyze the success and resilience of Kentucky’s regional agriculture and regional food economy. We focus on supporting farmers, and growing the local food system through research, partnerships, and responsible redevelopment. For more information, please visit www.seedcapitalky.org.

About West Louisville FoodPort

The West Louisville FoodPort is poised to become one of the most transformative urban reinvestment projects of the decade. On a 24-acre campus in the Russell neighborhood, the FoodPort is a state-of-the-art landmark that spurs economic activity by locating food-related businesses in one place where they can buy food from local farmers and hire neighbors for jobs. For more information, please visit www.westloufoodport.org. #growtogether

1st Annual Harvest Festival

On October 17, 2015, the West Louisville FoodPort Community Council and business, community, and civic partners hosted the first annual FoodPort Community Harvest Festival. At the foot of the 24-acre vacant lot that has become an overlooked eyesore through the years, this community engaging event sought to reintroduce residents, business, and the greater community to the amazing potential of the FoodPort site and surrounding neighborhoods of West Louisville.

The Harvest Festival was a community wide, yet neighborhood focused engaging event, with the aim of bringing residents, businesses, and community groups together in fellowship. At the event, there were over 600 attendees and 30 vendors present. There were attendees of all ages, and many neighborhoods from across the city were represented. Local vendors and community groups were present, joined by education institutions, faith groups, employers, statewide growers and interested investors.

As a result of the Harvest Festival, several small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs were able to network regarding opportunities with and around the FoodPort. The Louisville Urban League, KentuckianaWorks, and the Fire Department were on hand to discuss employment opportunities. Messer Construction, the entity managing the build of the FoodPort, was on hand to speak with potential MBEs and WBEs interested in contracting for the project. Also, several of the entities moving into the FoodPort were present to discuss their services/products. Several business connections were made as a result, some of which are now a part of the FoodPort Community Council’s Workforce task group.

Attendees and the FoodPort Community Council are looking forward to the 2nd Annual Harvest Festival and establishing this celebration as a yearly tradition.