MILWAUKEE – There's a place in this frozen, snowy city where the growing season never ended.
It's a world just steps away from ice-crusted streets where the weather is 72 degrees and about 40 percent humidity – all day, every day.
Hundred Acre Farm put down roots in a warehouse at Milwaukee's Century City business park in summer of 2021.
Today, it is a lush, green indoor farm.
Chris Corkery says this proves his idea of bringing hydroponic farming to inhospitable places works.
"Century City and this warehouse in particular seemed like the perfect fit for us to come in an establish ourselves, and maybe one day this is our headquarters, too," Corkery said.
As Wisconsin is months away from seeing anything grow outside, the team here is hard at work on "hacking" Mother Nature.
They use all the ingredients for growing food in a non-traditional way.
It uses light and nutrient-filled water to grow food all year long in a hydroponic garden stacked five levels high.
Right now, the crops growing in plastic troughs are salad greens and basil.
Fed by a slow drip of water and brightened by enough LED grow lights to feel like summer on the coldest winter day.
"You have irrigation on one end, drainage on the other, a pitch for gravity, let nature do its work," Corkery said.
The green, leafy crops started as seedlings in the farm's nursery.
After about 10 days, they move into the heart of the farm and take off growing.
"That's really where things get beefed up," Corkery explained. "It's hyper efficient light, the same conditions every day, the proper balance of carbon dioxide, heat, airflow, nutrients. All these things are working in favor of optimum plant growth and that's why you're seeing about a 5-week turnaround."
That means a crop to harvest every week.
Fresh greens for stores, restaurants and food service companies across the city, and new jobs in the heart of Milwaukee.
"The real goal here is back to the people. We're not interested in having a farm run by machines or calling up day labor. We want to create sustainable careers and the only way to do that is have fulltime meaningful engagement," Corkery said.
With interest in his crops running high, Corkery sees the potential to open two more hydroponic farms by the end of 2022, with the hope of operating five across the city by 2023.