Strawn, Illinois (112 miles from downtown Chicago)
Mark is a former firefighter who turned full-time grower after he helped his in-laws, Kevin and Denise Kilgus, convert their truck farming operation into Living Water Farms (LWF) in 2008. He is now President and CEO of Living Water Farms, which grows specialty salad greens, microgreens, herbs and edible flowers year-round in a greenhouse located a couple of hours southwest of Chicago, not far from Bloomington and Champaign.
Living Water Farms’ goal is to develop markets and raise capital to enable a major expansion of its greenhouse growing space, from 10,000 square feet to 170,000 square feet.
Mark emphasizes that Living Water Farms promotes sustainability by utilizing Integrated Pest Management and other ecologically/environmentally conscious practices. He also notes that Living Water Farms’ greenhouse growing contributes to building a year-round market for locally and regionally produced goods: “Many of the items LWF grows are not currently available year-round in the Midwest and are shipped primarily from the Southwest, contributing to many thousands of food miles each week.”
Having this local alternative is good not only for reducing the Chicago foodshed’s carbon footprint, but for buyers and consumers who benefit from the availability of a fresher and better-tasting product. “The nature of just in time harvest and rapid shipment through local distribution allows for significantly increased shelf life over shipped product,” Mark says.