Indianapolis, Ind. - Jim Bloom was a prison chaplain with an idea. He wanted to create jobs for people trying to recover from hard times who are having a hard time finding work, and he wanted to use healthy food to do it.
After years of research, Farm 360 sprouted.
“I absolutely am in awe of everything when I come in and see it,” said Bloom.
Farm 360 is 8,000 square feet of growing space in a warehouse near Rural and Washington. There are roughly 25 products, all sorts of leafy greens and living herbs, thriving in a hydroponic lab.
Bloom had already opened a successful indoor farm in Ohio and saw Englewood as the perfect next location.
Farm 360 falls within the bounds of a “Promise Zone,” meaning the area was singled out by the Obama administration as a prime place for development.
Bloom says food security is a big part of lifting up an area that needs a hand.
Farm 360 General Manager Chris Arnold says within six months, the indoor farm will be 25,000 square feet of growing space and an outdoor greenhouse will be added in the spring.
“Ultimately one of our visions is to hire people that maybe need a little bit of a second chance," said Arnold. “So we’ve got about 14 people that are on staff right now and four of those have come directly out of incarceration. We really have some neat stories and we enjoy having them on the team.”
The goal is to eventually hire more people and have 70% of workers be from the Englewood neighborhood.
Farm 360 started growing about a year ago and is now supplying several local restaurants and the IPS school system. The urban farm will soon count some local hospitals and supermarkets as customers.
“There’s 1.8 billion dollars annually in what we basically are growing here, consumed in the Indianapolis metro area, and less than 3% of that is actually grown within 400 miles,” said Bloom.
“What we’re showing can be done over and over again, so how many empty warehouses are there in Indianapolis? We could produce a lot of food,” said Bloom.
And they could also produce a lot of hope.
“Everybody wants value and respect and (our employees) are giving back to the community and what they’re doing is they’re creating a value to the community,” said Bloom. “I see it’s changing their lives because they’re feeling respected and they’re feeling valued.”
“Every time I come in here I see what the next phase can be,” said Bloom. “The goal would be to take this to the next level and get more productive, but also continue to increase the health of the plants.”
Several community groups came together to make Farm 360 a reality, including the Englewood Community Development Corporation.
Click here for more on the indoor farm!