On a recent business trip to the Northeast US, I booked a flight that would allow me a long layover at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.
Even though most business travelers run from a layover, I had an ulterior motive.
I wanted to visit the airport’s flagship vertical aeroponic Future Growing® O’Hare urban garden — the world’s first food farm inside an airport terminal. The great thing about visiting this airport farm is that you don’t need a rental car or a hotel room, and you don’t have to go through security again. The farm is centrally located right in the airport at the mezzanine level of Terminal 3, near the entrance to Concourse G.
Even though I had visited the ground-breaking farm that provides chemical-free herbs and vegetables to airport restaurants several times before, I like to stop in from time to time and meet with our farmers personally.
On my way to the farm, I ran right into a farmers market! I was astonished to see that Chicago O’Hare now features a Farmer’s Market – a second world’s first for O’Hare! The airport is truly representing the future of local, sustainable living. The O’Hare Farmer’s Market kiosk offers fresh herbs such as basil, cilantro, and thyme, which are all grown a level above the market in the world’s first airport aeroponic garden.
The O’Hare Urban Urban Garden benefits millions of international travelers passing through the airport, the Chicago community, and the environment. The Tower Garden® farm produces more than 1,100 plants from 26 aeroponic towers for travelers and the airport’s high quality restaurants, including Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless, Blackhawks Restaurant, Wicker Park Seafood and Sushi, and Tuscany. It is important to the chefs at these fine restaurants to use the most local, sustainable, and flavorful herbs and produce they can get their hands on.
I love spending time at Chicago O’Hare’s Urban Garden, to watch the reaction of travelers to the high towers of live plants and see how this natural environment creates calm in the middle of one of the busiest U.S. airports. For some, it is their first encounter with agriculture and live plants. You see hurried travelers immediately relax, take a deep breath, and breathe in the aroma of the plants. Often, produce you buy from the supermarket has no aroma. Lettuce and herbs grown in the vertical aeroponic Tower Gardens® produce the most fresh, flavorful aroma you can imagine. Many excited travelers also stop to take pictures of the vertical farm, and point out their favorite plants to their family members.
Chicago O’Hare’s ground-breaking farm is now moving into its third year of operation, and it is more successful than ever. Not only does the farm supply all natural, sustainable produce using 95 percent less water than traditional farms with Future Growing’s closed-loop recycling system, but it is also altering Chicago’s ecosystem and impacting the life of every traveler who passes through the airport’s gates. You cannot get produce that is more local, fresh, and sustainable — especially in the middle of a Chicago winter. We at Future Growing® commend the leadership of Chicago O’Hare for bringing safe, local produce to Chicago and global travelers, and are proud to be their partner, supplying them with our innovative vertical farm system that truly embodies the future of green, sustainable living.
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC