Second Chances Farm gives new opportunities for growth

WILMINGTON, Delaware (WPVI) -- Sometimes growth occurs in unexpected places.

Behind the doors of an office suite in Wilmington is the prototype for Second Chances Farm.

'Second Chances' provides indoor farming jobs and training to former inmates.

The first full site will be up and running in a matter of months. In the meantime, their smaller crop of leafy greens is flourishing.

Charles O'Neill told Action News, "I've always loved growing things. I think everybody likes a good salad."

O'Neill, of Newark, was released from prison in 2017, after serving about 5.5 years. He had an interest in agriculture and was connected to 'Second Chances Farm.'

It isn't easy to re-enter the workforce from prison. Stigma can stifle opportunities and the adjustment to a new, different life can be difficult.

Founder Ajit George explained that support resources like AA, anger management and counseling will be available, in addition to the job training.

George hopes the holistic approach will help reduced recidivism.

"70% of the people coming out of Delaware's prison come out and get rearrested within three years," said George. "We wanted to offer a for-profit solution to a non-profit problem."

For $15 an hour, farmers will work on vertical, hydroponic farms.

These farms have no soil. Rather, water with nutrients is recycled through a closed-loop system until no nutrients are left.

They hope to move into their new facility in August.

At that facility, the racks will double in height and multiply, increasing crops per square foot. They will allow for 375,000 plants at any given time.

The farms will be situated in economically depressed areas. Old buildings will be transformed into plant factories.

Chief Growing Officer Evan Bartle said, "We're hoping to breathe new life into these buildings that are abandoned or run down."

Their primary customers will be grocery stores and restaurants, with prices comparable to organic produce.

Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer Jon Brilliant said, "We're going to provide to our investors not only an economic return but a social impact return."

The first farms will be in Delaware, with the hope of eventually expanding across state lines.

If farmers would like to stay after one year of training they could earn equity, and perhaps move to management positions as more farms open.

"I can't wait to see where it goes," said O'Neill.

Their first crop should be ready by Christmas.
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