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Episode 7: Deep Dive with Alicia: What's it really like to run an urban farm in Chicago?

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In this special episode, Rob sits down with Alicia Nesbary-Moore, co-owner and Chief Veggie Officer at Herban Produce to talk about her path from a science grad student with plans for medical school or academia to running one of Chicago’s premier urban farms.

The conversation dives into Alicia's background growing up in Chicago, being a nerd, her travails in college and grad school, her family’s history in farming in Mississippi, food access, food deserts and her experience as a first time farmer/entrepreneur/CEO/CVO of a new type of urban farm.

With no background in farming herself, she would watch her now business partner Barry Howard’s work while he was building their new greenhouse while she walked her dogs in the neighborhood, and jumped at the chance to join the team and eventually run the operation when.

It’s a terrific story about a new generation of farm entrepreneurs who are building new ways we can produce food in large cities, create new business models for independent farms, educate people about healthy living and nutrition and develop new skills and talent amongst underrepresented communities.

An inspiring story but also one that’s worth following if you have an interest in urban agriculture, entrepreneurship, leadership and startups.

Learn more about Herban Produce.




[00:00:04.410] - Robert Laing

All right, so I'm here today with Alicia from Herban Produce, and we've already just done a little interview with you and Barry and I think that was good. But, you know, now it's time to kind of just dive a little bit deeper and kind of understand what's going on with you guys. How are you feeling today? It's like it's like a chilly day in December for us.

[00:00:28.020] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

Yeah. Here it's really cloudy and gloomy. There were a little snow flurries earlier,  so winter is really coming, so...

[00:00:37.080] - Robert Laing

OK, how do you feel about that? Are you are you a winter person? Because, you know, my sort of - my impression of Chicago sometimes is that in winter its just this, like impenetrable, impossible...  I don't know, like it is like in Game of Thrones when winter is coming. Like it is. It is like that. Are you the same? Do you feel the same way?

[00:00:59.790] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

I do feel the same way. But I have grown to appreciate the changing of the seasons because it's like this metaphor of, I think in society, especially now we're just we're wanting to just go, go, go, go, go produce, produce, produce, produce. But I think nature has a way of reminding us that sometimes it's just OK to slow down. And that's particularly true with farming, especially when you have an outdoor operation in Chicago. So now we've like come to this point in the season where the season has slowed down and sales have slowed down. So you just kind of got to, you know, ride the wave. Yeah. And just allow for nature to take its course.

[00:01:45.720] - Robert Laing


[00:01:45.720] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

I'm not though, I'm not a winter person, but I'm growing to appreciate it more and more with taking vitamin D supplements.

[00:01:56.090] - Robert Laing

Oh, OK, good. Yeah, I take vitamin D as well and I try to get my girlfriend to take it and then she, she does it like, I don't know, I have to like sneak stuff into the smoothie for her. I put the B12 in, I put vitamin D and everything. Yeah. And just to make sure that she gets it. So I'm glad you're doing that as well.

[00:02:18.210] - Robert Laing

So, so should we just for the benefit of people who maybe haven't watched the other interview, although they should, who are you and what do you do? And tell us all about it.

[00:02:31.050] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

So I'm Alicia. Hi, everyone. I'm the co-owner of Herban Produce, as I stated in the last segment of the podcast, it didn't start off that way. I started off as a green house manager and my role has grown over time just with the growth of the company. So that's really exciting to have that opportunity to have equity in the company that I have really worked hard and I really do believe in for real. So that's really nice to have that that perspective and also to have the opportunity to cast vision on that company. So my background is in science. I am a degreed scientist, molecular biology with a concentration in genetics. So that was my educational background. I spent my twenties in the nonprofit world, so I ran, not ran nonprofits, but I was an admin at nonprofits, both religious nonprofit and at the university. So at the university I oversaw all of the student research of my department for a grant called LSAMP, which its purpose was to get more minority students into research and sciences and actually graduate. So that was a really successful program. So that's my background.

[00:04:04.740] - Robert Laing

Yeah, yeah. And Herban Produce. What do you grow? And as a reminder, like where are you and what kind of space to occupy in the city?

[00:04:14.430] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

So Herban Produce is an urban farm in the East Garfield Park neighborhood in Chicago. It started off as a four thousand square foot hydroponic green house. And today it is a farm that is nearly two acres in size. So we have over seventeen thousand square feet of traditional agriculture which houses our production beds. And we have, I want to say, twelve hundred square feet of vertical growth space through our A-frames. And, yeah, they were going to have this amazing vertical farm that's coming next year. 

[00:04:55.230] - Robert Laing

And if you go back, I remember you telling us like that you had sort of walked past the farm before you joined and you'd sort of been aware of it. What was your impression of urban agriculture before you got involved in this whole business? And and how is it played out now? How how is your sort of understanding of the whole space developed as you've become part of it?

[00:05:19.320] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

Yeah. So I don't know if you've ever sat in a science talk before where grad students or PI's, they present their research to a room. And so one summer I was in this research program and I remember like everyone was just talking about their research and I was so bored. And there was this one grad student who was finishing up at UIC, I will never forget her. She did her research on trichomes of plants and how it related to pollution in urban settings.

[00:06:03.750] - Robert Laing

Tell people what are the trichomes? By the way.

[00:06:07.380] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

So, trichomes are basically a part of the leaf.

[00:06:14.270] - Robert Laing

I often see them, I don't have any here, I think, but we grow. Do you ever grow this green wave mustard? Do you know that it's like a really strong mustard green, but it has like a very frilly leave and it'll develop trichomes, which almost look like little hairs, right? Sort of spiky little things.

[00:06:32.410] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

Yeah. They're like little hair like structures on the leaves. Yeah.

[00:06:35.420] - Robert Laing

 And often it'll, it'll, it means often that the plant is kind of defending itself or it's just really healthy and it's got like a lot of, you know, good stuff going on. And I, you know, my friends in the cannabis industry also try to identify plants that have very visible trichomes because it can.

[00:06:52.400] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

Oh, yes, trichomes like a huge thing in the cannabis industry because it lets you know the quality of the plant.

[00:07:02.420] - Robert Laing

Sorry. Anyway, sidetracked.

[00:07:05.910] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

No that's great. And so she was relating trichomes to pollution and she did a lot of her research at urban farms. And so that was the first time that I had even heard of the concept of urban farms or farming in the city. And I was like, that is really cool. I would love to connect with that with her. I never connected with her. But when, and I was actually thinking about going because, you know, my background is in genetics. And so I was thinking about going into a wet laboratory and just doing a lot of genetics research at another university. And so. At the same time, there was this really cool green house being built around the corner from my house and I'm like, I wonder, you know, what they're doing? And so I would I would follow the signs that they would post. And so one day I was I was finishing up at grad school, really stressed out, and I was walking my dogs. And that's how I ended up connecting with Victoria, who was at the farm before. And yeah, like it has really been cool to see its growth. And at the time it just was that four thousand square foot hydroponic greenhouse. But I'm glad it was just the four thousand square foot, 4000 square foot hydroponic greenhouse because I don't know if I would have been able to run a farm of the size that it is now with no experience. So it's kind of like I grew with the farm. So that's really fun.

[00:08:39.770] - Robert Laing

And so when you said you had no experience, like, how did how did you convince someone to hire you with no experience? Well, because I'm sure, you know, there might be people listening to this who have no experience. And I certainly started my career with no experience. And you always sort of rely on somebody, right, to sort of believe in you kind of see something. And like, so how how did you do it? What's your tip for getting hired with zero experience?

[00:09:06.470] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

So my my lead in was volunteering. So I just approached Victoria and I volunteered and I learned each process at the farm and she knew I was finishing up at grad school. And so she said she called and said "Hey, you... there's something special about you. I've never had a volunteer quite like you. You live right around the corner. I think this will be an amazing opportunity for you. I know you haven't really landed on what you wanted to do after grad school. I think you should give it a try". And I would just say to be open and to learn as much as you can, so I only have Victoria well actually still have her my best friends with her now. But at the time, I was working with her for like two months and I was like a sponge because I could have easily went in and been like, oh, I'm a scientist. I know everything. But I really was a sponge. I let her. I let her teach me everything, and so I was just open and I just learned everything about the business because I never done sales before. So that was a new thing for me in sales can be a little bit intimidating, especially when you are selling to top tier chefs. So, yeah, it was a it was a bit of a learning curve, but yeah, I would say to be open and be ready for some rejection, but just to keep keep rolling with the punches.

[00:10:43.290] - Robert Laing

Yeah. And so I mean, and it's also such a thing about urban farming that you were able to walk around the block and see this farm. Right. I mean, that's and that's one of the things that I kind of love about what we're able to do and of the farms is that you can have farms that are right there in the middle of the city and people can see them. They can understand how their food is growing, you know, as opposed to getting their produce from somewhere in California and having it shipped in and not having any connection to that, you know. So tell us a little bit, because I visited Chicago a few times, but mostly like as a tourist, you know, so I don't know all the neighborhoods and stuff like that. What's what's it like what's East Garfield Park like and how is your relationship with that neighborhood changed through your life? And now?

[00:11:35.720] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

So I feel like New York is the same where each neighborhood has its distinct identity and Chicago is kind of the same way, where it's one of the most segregated cities, of course, but I feel like each neighborhood has its own distinct identity. And East Garfield Park has always been known for its green scapes. So the Garfield Park Conservatory is huge, right? It sees over two hundred thousand tourists or visitors per year. And so there has been this boom of small gardens in East Garfield Park and an interesting food theme that has emerged here. So I would say that East Garfield and so that's cool. But its proximity to the loop, the West Loop, which has when I first moved back in 2013, the West Loop was it was originally like a meatpacking district. And so now Google's headquarters are there. You have all it's like restaurant row is there. It's completely changed. And so as a result, all of the adjacent neighborhoods have also kind of changed a bit. And so East Garfield Park is adjacent to the near west side, which is where the bowl stadium is. And so you're seeing an influx of people who are being priced out from the north neighborhoods like Logan Square and the West Loop area, because it has really the development has really boomed. And so I've seen, you know, a change in the the demographic of folks that live in the neighborhood, but also local residents really having a major voice at what's happening in in the neighborhood. So one of our closest partners is the Garfield Park Community Council, and we've been really involved with them. And just like hearing the opinions of the people who've lived here for generations. So it's really been a delicate balance as to how do you provide, how do you provide investment without continuing to contribute to displacement of folks who have been here for generations?

[00:14:12.350] - Robert Laing

Yeah. And I mean, how do you feel about that personally? Because obviously you're sort of you can see it as a business Herban Produce and then you can see it as an individual. And I'm sure people around you who you've known for decades and stuff like, how do you feel about it and what like, yeah, what do you think is next? Yeah.

[00:14:31.980] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

Yeah. So, I really didn't think much about it until I started seeing listings for homes that were around the farm and they were including the farm in the listings. And I'm like, wow, this farm is really changing the adjacent area. And so I immediately, me and Barry, we've had these conversations of, wow, this farm is going to change this area. What are we going to do? You know, how are we going to contribute to it in a good way? So, yeah, I mean, I, I just know economics and equity and opportunity have always been really important to us. And so we continue to just kind of keep it at the forefront of our mind of how we can positively impact the local community. But yeah, there's this juxtaposition of investors coming into the neighborhood, too. So it's like I don't know, like I don't know what the future holds. I just know that we're working hard as a business to create impactful change.

[00:15:47.040] - Robert Laing

Yeah. And I mean, what and what are some of the ways that you guys are able to do that?

[00:15:53.810] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

So employment is one of the huge ways we're able to do it. So, as you know, in communities like East Garfield Park, everyone just wants to open up nonprofits all over the place. And so that's one of the reasons why we decided that the neighborhood didn't need another nonprofit or we needed a business that would be able to provide jobs, support entrepreneurs, even kind of stir up the entrepreneurial spirit. And so since the expansion of our farm, we were able to hire, how many? We were able to add, five full time employees and 10 youth that were from the local community, so that's huge. We went from just having two full time employees, so that's huge growth within a year. So I think employment is a huge way that we will contribute. But then also just the experience that experiences that we will be able to give the local community through food education, through, you know, with the onsite consumption opportunities.

[00:17:08.950] - Robert Laing

Yeah, I mean, I think I know we we talked about this before because one of the, one of the dynamics we experience is that we get a lot of intern applicants. I mean, a lot, and we've sort of shut them off this year because we just can't really accommodate them on the farm because of COVID and all that kind of stuff. But but historically, it's always been an issue for us because, you know, we'll get applicants who are clearly, you know, wealthy enough that they don't need to make money. They're from, you know, these top tier universities that clearly smart folks, but also the sheer volume of them is like displacing other folks who would maybe get more out of it. And and I know that, you know, you guys have a program, I think it's called like 'One for One Chicago' or something like that, where for internships, maybe tell us a little bit about that, how you do that and how do you look at internships and other opportunities and try to be equitable in who you offer them to?

[00:18:03.990] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

It's funny you say that, because one of my biggest challenges with urban ag is finding people with the skill sets to do the work, especially when you're a small operation. And so, like, if you're an established farm it's easy to bring on someone that doesn't really have the skill set to do the work because, you know, you probably can afford to have middle management to kind of hold their hand through the process, but we weren't in that position. So, for a while there, we had a revolving door because I was trying to, you know, I was trying to be good and and hire, hire from my job training programs. But it just wasn't working out like it would just not work out. And it was the most frustrating thing to me. And so we decided to really hone in on our youth programming and to kind of build out  our employees with more people that had skill set so that we can have middle management to better manage folks from like job training programs and returning citizens and things like that. So that's kind of like where our regular employees are headed. But for our youth programming, we decided, OK, we don't have the skill set to actually run a youth program. You know, like there are a lot of parameters and requirements that are needed. So we decided to partner with the foundation One for One Chicago, and that's the person that's the foundation that actually pays for the interns to work. And we just basically provide the job site for those interns. So it has worked out great. The job, the internship has really evolved over the years. And it's so funny because when I used to run the student program at the university, there's this idea of, you know, you've, not idea, but you need like almost like this wraparound service. And so a lot of the interns that we get are also graduating from high school. And so they're looking to apply to college. And so there were so many needs. And One for One Chicago, Chicago has really done a really good job at not only finding them job placements, but also providing a lot of different touch points for them and really providing this like 360 type of mentorship.

[00:20:31.500] - Robert Laing

Yeah, well, so like specifically, what does that look like and what do, you know, people might be coming from high school, maybe spending some time with you and then going on to do something else? Like what might that look like, for example?

[00:20:44.970] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

Yeah. So right now they come, they come and they're like, what the heck is this? You know, like what is the farm? So they're they're not familiar with the work that is involved on the farm. So about two or three weeks and they're like, oh my God, this is such hard work, I can't believe I have to do this. And it's like maybe a couple of weeks later they really get excited and they really have a deeper connection. And so a lot of times I see that the interns end up really wanting to explore urban ag and all the job opportunities that are connected with it. So a lot of them like, you know, research, not research, yeah but research programs that are associated with growing in the food industry. So it's like it's giving them a level of exposure that they didn't have before. But like I said, that the 360 wrap around service is definitely needed because our students have an extra barrier that is involved with actually getting to the university that I didn't even have as an individual, so.

[00:21:56.180] - Robert Laing

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Interesting, interesting. And, you know, when you think about Herban and your kind of role within the Chicago like urban farming community, where do you think you fit in and how does it relate to what other folks are doing? And there are some other folks doing really interesting stuff that you'd like to kind of highlight and point out.

[00:22:22.820] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

Yeah, so I think I mentioned this in the last segment, but, I kind of see us as, I don't know, like we're doing something different because I feel that urban ag either fits into two categories in Chicago. So either its this feel good nonprofit organization or it has millions of dollars backing it. So we're kind of somewhere in the middle. And so, it's very unique. And so, as you know, I didn't have a background in urban ag, so I did a lot of, you know, workshop seminars. And I got to kind of sit in the room with the people who were running these programs and people who ran these farms. None of them look like me. Right. But I felt like the industry, it didn't look like me, but I was like, man, how can we change this? There were no, you know, co-owners or owners in general that look like me. Everyone that looked like me were either, you know, farm leads or doing, you know, farm hands. And they were kind of in front of the room stating how this program changed their life. And I'm like, oh, my God, this thing so exploitative, you know? And I'm like, ugh, so I just I saw the ugly side of urban ag, but at the same time I saw the potential of how my business could be a little different. So that was kind of my initial connection with with urban ag in Chicago.

[00:24:04.950] - Robert Laing

Yeah. I'd love if you can talk more about that, because I I see some of the same dynamics, you know, in other cities, and I think that, you know, if you look obviously historically, there's this huge, huge agricultural, you know, sort of monstrosity in the U.S. about, you know, how folks of color have been treated and how land use has been taken away from people. And and then, you know, to see not exactly the same thing in urban agriculture, but like there's some sort of echoes, you know. I don't know, talk more about it. It's super interesting.

[00:24:45.300] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

I am a second generation removed from farming, so my great grandfather had a huge farm in Mississippi and my mother talks about him being this great entrepreneur. He basically farmed by himself. They would go down in the summers to kind of help them out with all the crops. But of course, none of the children wanted to take up agriculture. No one ran the family farm. And of course, the grandchildren didn't, because all of my all of my aunts and uncles, they moved to Chicago. So they did more industry jobs and they lived in the big cities, so no one was returning back to the south. And so when I talk about farming to them, they're like, wait, what? You, you did all that schooling to do farming? And I'm like, yeah, but it's connected. I promise you. Its technology based, you know, all that. So just to see how a lot of the generations or the two generations before me, how they kind of lost this love for farming because of all of the negative connotations that are associated with it. I mean, I understand it like I wholeheartedly get it. You know, it's a lot of hard work, one to farm, and you really don't see that much of a profit. But you also see how broken the food system is and how it really wasn't it really wasn't built, you know, you know let's be honest, like we go back to slavery, it wasn't built to be sustainable. I just recently went to the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis and in the beginning of the exhibit, it talked about the requirements of each slave based on the type of crops that they grew. And I remember it was like to think, I think the tobacco crop and they were like one slave was responsible for one acre. Oh, my God. I could not imagine being responsible to farm. And I were saying how the the sugar, the sugar plantations were so deadly that they were replacing their their force every three years. So the life expectancy of a slave was three years for a sugar plantation. So with that deep rooted history of how broken our food system is, I can see why a lot of, why a lot of African-Americans have shied away from the industry. And so, just now coming back into it now in this modern day, it's really funny how it has how it has really shifted. But how... You know, no one that looks like me is, you know, running the actual businesses, so it's been, I don't know, it's kind of been this like thing that I kind of wrestle with all the time of how do I, how do I turn it around? Not by myself, but how do I turn it around and how do I kind of educate people of how to be connected to their food again?

[00:28:02.570] - Robert Laing

Yeah, yeah. No, I mean...

[00:28:04.530] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

That's a long answer.

[00:28:05.000] - Robert Laing

No, I mean, but that's the, you know, the reason that I think we want to have conversations that are longer and deeper is that we can talk about these kind of things. Whereas like when you're on a panel discussion, you have like 12 seconds or something to talk about, like why did you get into urban farming? And then it's like, OK, but, you know, there is this huge, huge other implications of what we do. And and, you know, when whenever someone mentions, like the food system or one aspect of the food system in America, it's like, OK, well, it's connected to this and this and this and this and this. And, you know, you sort of can the more you dig, the more you find and the more you find, the more it's like, oh, this is super fucked up. And yeah, and so I'm not, I'm not surprised. I mean, it's really interesting to me that dynamic within a family even to say like, OK, we've sort of moved away from farming as a family because it was so hard and so problematic. And then I'm guessing it was sort of a great migration kind of timing. Right, to to move to Chicago, as so many families did, right, and now to be back in the world of farming. Yeah. I mean, what what's it like? Do you ever get the chance to talk about this with grandparents or other relatives who are kind of older and have, you know, sort of both perspectives on this and everything?

[00:29:34.330] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

Yeah, they are amazed by it when they come back. So my grandmother, when she comes to the farm, is so nostalgic for her and I could hardly keep her away. And I'm like, Ma? I mean, grandma, it's a pandemic. You cannot come to the farm. But she wants to, like, work and do things on the farm because she's like, oh, my gosh, this reminds me of the time of my dad. And of course, like her father died before I was born, I think in like eighty six. So he's been gone a long time. So it's like she has this, she immediately went back to just farming with him and how that made her feel. So they've been really supportive. Of course, my my paternal side of the family, they always have lived in Chicago, so they've been city folk. So they don't have the same connection there. They are always like, uh, no, I'm OK with not farming. But just to see that resurgence of, you know, pride in and, oh,  this is so nostalgic. And oh, I get to pick my food and then she goes home and she cooks and she's like, oh, I remember. This is so fresh. This is how it used to taste back home.

[00:30:46.190] - Robert Laing

Yeah. Yeah. Well tell me about the food then. I notice behind you, you have the vegetable butcher book. Well, I, I don't know if I know that book or not, but like, how does it tell me about the food history in your family? And if you go back to the Mississippi time versus now, and then like I know personally that, you know, the food within my family has changed a lot, even just during my lifetime. You know, So I don't know. How do you, how has your family's relationship with food changed over time? And what is it now?

[00:31:17.250] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

Yeah, so before, so back when my grandmother was growing up in the South, they grew everything. So my grandfather had this huge, you know, field. So on the off seasons, he preserved. He had livestock, so he slaughtered a lot of the livestock. He fished so he would, you know, prepare all the fish. SO, everything was fresh, everything was like, you know, farm to table, as we say now. And so to go from that to my generation where I'm ordering Uber Eats, you know, every day to survive. So that's exactly how it's changed. So even back with my mom, she probably prepared maybe a couple of meals a week because she was the working parent. So we ate out a lot. And so there has really been this disconnect of where our food is sourced from. And so, as I say, like we're in the midst of this pandemic and now people are really conscious of what they're putting in their body. So I think this is a very unique time to kind of be in the forefront and kind of talk to people like, hey, we can connect back to our food. And so with my family, it has kind of been that same thing. So everyone pays attention to labels now to see where their food is being sourced. So that's really, that's really been, important, and I'm glad that that's happening now, yeah. We're starting to connect back to our food.

[00:32:55.210] - Robert Laing

Yeah. Tell me more about what you think about that, because you're one of the first people I've spoken to who has connected the pandemic to food and what we eat and paying attention to what you eat. I mean, personally, I think it's staggering when you look at the numbers, right. You know, the risk of mortality with COVID, like goes up how many hundreds of percent with comorbidities, like diabetes and heart disease and just other conditions. Right. And, you know, historically and presently in the US, a lot of those conditions are really connected to lifestyle and diet. But but, you know, if you look in the media, if you look on TV or you look on New York Times or whatever, people don't really mention diet at all, when they talk about COVID. They don't mention what people are eating. They don't mention lifestyle. They don't mention any of these factors. And it's sort of so tragic that, you know, this pandemic has gone on long enough now that someone who had made an attempt back in March to change what they eat and eat healthier could have had, you know, a really good progression by now to put them at less risk of this disease. But I can't see anybody around the country even talking about that. What do you think about, about that and that conversation and how it fits in?

[00:34:11.400] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

Yeah. So it just was a reminder of how African-Americans are really disproportionately impacted by everything that happens. And so food being one of them. So even East Garfield Park is considered a food desert. We only have one grocery store. It's not even in East Garfield Park, not near west side. And that just came when I first moved to the neighborhood. And before that, there hadn't been a grocery store in this neighborhood for over 40 years. Forty years. And so it's, it's easy to disconnect from being able to eat healthy when it's always available to you and for neighborhoods that, you know, have a lot of people of color in it, they're normally food deserts. Right. And so the option to walk out of your door and go to a local corner store or grocery store, a little grocer that has like fresh food, it really doesn't exist. And so you end up eating with convenience. And that's kind of, has what happened, has what has happened to us over generations. We work hard, you know, because most folks are like working class, middle class. So you work hard. You don't really have the time to prepare your food. And so it's been this convenience lifestyle. OK, I'm just going to go pick this up on the way home, but I'm not really paying attention to what I'm putting in my body. And as a result, you know, we have all these underlying issues that have been passed down. And it's yeah, it's really nerve wracking. And it's disheartening that... But it's also an opportunity to kind of turn around the narrative and really just kind of preach, no, we have to change the way we eat, pay attention to the labels, stop eating processed food, lets eat more fresh. So, yeah.

[00:36:16.070] - Robert Laing

Yeah, and, you know, obviously, then the question becomes right about, you know, you see folks doing community farms, you see people raising a lot of money to do VC backed farms. And I think the, you know, the phrase food desert comes up all the time, right. In urban agriculture panels. And but like, what do you think is really happening to to push against food deserts and to bring food back to communities and to really solve this problem? What do you what do you see as like the really effective things that are going to solve this?

[00:36:55.910] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

Yeah, it's so funny you say that, because I know you've heard a lot of people that have these pipe dreams of opening up this community garden or starting an urban farm, and then all of a sudden they solve the issue of their neighborhood being a food desert, like it would take an army of little small urban farms to support a community. And so the reality of some of these small farms being able to support the population is unrealistic. Right. And so what we really have to push for is more development so that we get more grocery stores, so that, OK, if you do have small community gardens or small farms, maybe they can, you know, be a provider for that grocery store and they aggregate things. I mean, for me, that would be more of a realistic goal to just push for more development in these communities versus trying to, you know, solve the issue with, you know, small gardens and farms because it's just not realistic.

[00:38:02.390] - Robert Laing

Yeah, I think. No, I mean, this is one of the sort of really, I guess, tricky things that I find, I find with urban agriculture is like, first of all, a lot of people come into this very idealistic, right. It's like, oh, I want to solve this. And then and then you start to do a thing and then you realize how hard it is just to, just to grow like a bean is really hard, you know, so and so then, you know, of course people get get wrapped up as they have to into just keeping their own little thing alive, you know, how do you keep not only the plant alive, but how do you keep this business alive or how do you keep this thing going? And and I know that, you know, one of the difficult conversations we had internally this year even was like during COVID as a business. As you know, we're like a for profit business. Historically, we've been very associated with high end restaurants and all that kind of thing. And and then, you know, during this year, there were a lot of conversations with a lot of our junior folks, I would say, who wanted to like donate a lot of produce, wanted to you know, people were saying, look, there's starving people on the streets, we should be donating this thing. And also trying to have to figure out as an organization like, well, how can we sort of be effective, how can we grow, how can we stay alive as an organization, you know, and try and do a little bit of good and. And also like what is it, is it better for us to sell produce at a lower price to give it away or to give someone a job? You know, and most of the time the answer has been like it's better for us to give someone a job because the sheer amount of produce we can grow is not that great anyway.

[00:39:49.710] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

Yes. And I mean that that is the key there to be able to provide another job so that that person can afford to feed their family quality food. Right. And then I think the other part is that education piece and, you know, food sourcing and how to create a nutritious diet, I think is going to be another important part of our business models because we're not going to solve that food desert issue. It's deeply rooted. It's deeply rooted and all we can do is just try to chip away at it. And I think, you know, playing to that, OK, it's best for us to sell things at a higher price point, which is a hard conversation to have. But we know that's the only way that our businesses will be supported, but we also have avenues where we are able to donate and we're able to support our community, but we'll only be able to do that if we have a sustainable and profitable business.

[00:40:51.930] - Robert Laing

Yeah, yeah. And I guess, you know, you're someone who actually does look at that PNL like you look at everything you're spending and you understand that. Tell us a little bit about I mean, you don't have to give us numbers, but what what are the economics of running an urban farm look like for you? Because a lot of people look at these things and they go like, oh, that's pretty. There's flowers over here. There's lettuce over here. Everyone's smiling. You know, there's got they got dirt on the jeans and it's fun. But what does it really look like? Yeah, well, what does it really look like when you open up, like Google spreadsheet, you know, Excel or whatever, you know, what does it look like?

[00:41:36.000] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

Yeah. So it's depressing because like I said, our food system is so effed that people don't want to pay for food. Right. But at the same time, if food prices were to rise, people couldn't afford the food. So it's just like, you know. You go back and forth about what the pricing of food should be, and so the thing that we've learned is, because I told you, like food doesn't pay the bills. So selling produce is, one, hard and at first we're selling commodity crops, so you already know how hard that is because now we're sized up against a 15 acre farm down state. So that was just really hard. So we learned that in urban agriculture you have to have multiple streams. So it's not just the food, but it's food and events, events and tours. Then the farm stay, cafe, all of these things have to work together. Barry and I like to say ecosystems, so we create this ecosystem of all these tiny businesses that help create this one sustainable business. And I'm pretty sure you've experienced the same thing. If you were just selling to restaurants, you wouldn't be opening.

[00:42:50.230] - Robert Laing

Especially this year.

[00:42:51.400] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore


[00:42:52.810] - Robert Laing

The problem was, you know, we had the chef sales and then we had the events, tours and classes, which were great. And then, of course, COVID took everything away. So we had to kind of reinvent the whole thing. Like, I mean, how's it going now for you guys in terms of profitability and everything? Are you, you know, I know that it's it's probably been really tough. Do you feel like you've got something now where you can kind of sustain it, no matter what happens with the pandemic? Or are you sort of got a timeline for getting things back in a certain way? How does it look?

[00:43:26.320] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

Yeah, so when the pandemic hit, we went from, like you said, you went from, you know, right on the right track, 10 restaurant partners to absolutely nothing, you know, no income coming in. So we had to pivot and figure out how to make it work. So that's when we launched the subscription program. So having the subscription has given us a bit of hope, but we're still not at full production. And so we're hoping to work up to that by the time the cafe opens in the spring, early summer. So we're hoping with all of those things in our, and then, of course, we have the big construction projects happening. So now with that coming to completion and us having the cafe and ramping up our production, we hope that. Well, we'll at least get to the point of breaking even pretty soon.


Nice, nice. And I mean, tell me about like, you know, when these things happen, because for me, I'm touching my heart, right, which is like because I'm like, OK, for me, you know, when these things happened instantly, I'm like, oh, OK, well, how are we going to survive as a business? We know we're going to have to let some folks go or something. People who we love working with and we want to support. And, you know, how do you feel when you have to go through those decisions? And I mean, is this the first time you've had to do something like that or, and, how do you kind of approach it?

[00:44:59.120] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

So I've always been, I've never been in this seat before of being in control of the the outcome or the success of the business. And so this year has been really tough. Fortunately, I haven't had to let anyone go yet because as soon as all of the resources started to appear, I was applying to everything. So the PPP, we got that. I also got the SBA loan, so that has helped to sustain us. Without it, I don't know what we would have done.

[00:45:35.420] - Robert Laing

Did you get it quickly or did?

[00:45:37.430] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

I did. I did.

[00:45:38.600] - Robert Laing

Oh, you're lucky. But like, let me tell you my story. Right? Just like the crazy thing was we raised some money in February and the bankers at Chase who normally just didn't care about us, suddenly started calling me, saying, like, oh, we want to meet you and we're going to be your private bankers and all this kind of stuff. And I was like, OK, fine, I'll go and I'll meet you guys. And I knew that it was nothing. But they and then they talked to you for ages about how they're going to help out your business and then you can call them if anything happens. And then literally six weeks later, I really need the PPP loan and I need to apply through them. And they you can't get them on the phone at all. And we didn't get it for months and months. And thankfully we had some cash and it wasn't a disaster. But I can imagine for a lot of people that difference of six weeks or whatever, that'll kill your business, you know. So anyway, I'm really glad you guys got it pretty fast because I think a lot of people didn't. And it's you know, it's, it was really clear that Chase Bank or these other banks, they prioritized their big customers first and then the smaller folks like, OK, we will get to them later. Anyway, that's my just my rant. Carry on.

[00:46:55.130] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

No, you're you're absolutely right, because that's how it is. I just apply for a state grant just to kind of feel some gaps. And that one is that one's taking a very long time. So I don't know what's going to be the outcome of that grant, but, yeah, I'm just taking this thing day by day.

[00:47:17.450] - Robert Laing

Yeah, yeah. But who do you kind of look to, you know, when you're going through these kind of things? For the first time, obviously you worked with Barry, who I think has a lot of this real estate experience, other sort of business experience and stuff. But, you know, do you come from an entrepreneurial family? Are there other folks in your family who you can get advice from or like how how do you figure out what to do?

[00:47:38.390] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

So I will say Barry has been, he has like held my hand through this whole process because he is a serial entrepreneur. And so this isn't his first baby. And so his knowledge of what to do in what situations. You know, I can't pay for that, I can't pay for that knowledge, and so usually I go to him for a pep talk. He's like, well, you got to figure this out. And I'm like, well, thanks, thanks for the pep talk. And so usually, you know, I end up figuring it out. And this is just kind of worked that way for the past two years. Well, now, because I'm so deeply invested and I know that I have four other families that are depending on the success of this farm, I'm like, I can't let them down, I have to, you know, just keep trucking, chucking forwards. So I allow myself to feel the gravity of what's happening because, you know, this is such a unique time that we're in, you know, like it's no way to just keep going and allow yourself to feel. So I feel it within. I'm like, OK, you know, what's next? What are we going to do? So I think, the ability to be nimble and try to figure out what to do next is kind of what has been sustaining us.

[00:49:07.300] - Robert Laing

Yeah, I have so many questions about how you deal with that, because, like, you know, I think that certainly, personally, I feel like, you know, I've been in some of the same situations where it's like, OK, I need to respect the gravity of the situation. You've got people's jobs. You've got other people's money. You've got, you know, also customers, all these people who are relying on you. And personally, sometimes I feel like that stress is really helpful, it's useful. And then other times I think it's just, it's too much. And it can constrict you like it can stop you from thinking, you know, long term, it can make you feel like people talk about this like scarcity mentality versus like abundance mentality. I don't know if you've ever heard those phrases before, but, you know, how do you how do you handle that? Because if you just constantly worry, you can't get anything done, right?

[00:50:04.090] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

Yes, I think that's where I am now. So with the expansion, it's like I figure out one part of the farm, but then once another park is done, then the goal line gets, gets moved. But then if you add the complexity of the pandemic, it's like, oh, my God, I like what is happening. And so, yeah, you're right. But I think I've been taking a lot of vitamins. I'd say, I've mentioned vitamin D earlier, but there is this vitamin that supports your adrenals because I feel like I, it's called 'Adrenal Vibe', 'Adrena' Vibe'.

[00:50:48.280] - Robert Laing


[00:50:48.610] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

It's something like that.

[00:50:49.510] - Robert Laing

It's legal?

[00:50:51.100] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

Yeah it is. It is. And then I take another supplement for insomnia and...

[00:50:59.170] - Robert Laing

Oh, what's that one?

[00:50:59.800] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

That's like Insomnitol, I believe that's that one. So those two together help to kind of restore my adrenals that I've been depleting all day. And it helps to kind of, for me to get a good sleep, because I like when you're so worked up like that, it's hard to get sleep, you know. So I found myself, like, not sleeping for days. I'm like, this is not right. Right? I got to get some rest. So taking a lot of vitamins and just like really taking the time to, and a lot of routines have been helping to. So like, having routines in my day. Barry actually taught me that, he's really good at it.

[00:51:39.550] - Robert Laing

Oh yeah?

[00:51:40.300] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

So he's really good about, because he is a, like I said, serial entrepreneur and he's always been on this wave of entrepreneurship. So I'm new to it. And so it's really nice to see someone who has already, you know, established certain boundaries and so it ends up working out. So, yeah, I take a lot of...

[00:51:58.790] - Robert Laing

Well, tell me the routines then. What are these secret routines of the of the greats that we need to learn?

[00:52:05.640] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

So the first one is cutting out, cutting out TV consumption.

[00:52:12.640] - Robert Laing

Oh, entirely?

[00:52:13.470] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

Barry has gotten to none. I'm not there yet. So I kind of restrict my, my TV consumption with and replace it with things that I enjoy to help me to come down. So whether it's reading or playing a game, but just something to just kind of help to, you know, change my day. Having like hard, not hard stop times, because that's not true. Not right now, but just like having routines in the morning. So coffee and then, you know, just like routines in the morning and then routines at night to help to promote sleep, I think are really helping me. Everything in between is just unpredictable. But those, the morning and the night routine, have really been keeping me.

[00:53:02.730] - Robert Laing

Yeah I know I, I love a routine as well. My, my personal thing is in the morning I have like a mushroom coffee thing. Do you know about these. Like the I have the Four Sigmatic ones and I have like Lion's Mane and I have Cordyceps which is sort of like an athletic recovery thing. And I'm convinced that the Lions Mane makes my brain better and everything. And then I do. Have you heard of morning pages? Do you know about the morning pages is like for twenty minutes. You just write down everything on your mind and it's like just clears your head and so you can go and do other stuff without worrying so much about that.

[00:53:46.930] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

So I do that at night to go to sleep. So I write everything, I do the brain dump at night.

[00:53:51.780] - Robert Laing

OK, night pages. Same thing. Yeah. Yeah that's great. That's great. I mean I think it's a real, you know, it's been for me a real sort of process because when I was younger, I, you know, I had a different company and it was VC backed and we had a lot of pressure on us and everything. And I was I was much more like I would work myself like crazy, and then I would kind of crash, you know, and I think Farm.One sort of taught me that I can't really do that. It's not sustainable. It doesn't produce your best work. And so you have to sort of figure out these strategies to survive, which is sounds like what you're doing.

[00:54:31.620] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

Yeah. I mean, because if you think about it, Rob, the industry that we're in, we have to be healthy because it's kind of incongruent to run a farm and promote fresh, healthy food. And you're not doing that self-work yourself. So I thought that's what I've been telling myself, like is off brand for me to be unhealthy.

[00:54:51.910] - Robert Laing

Yeah, no, I think it's true. I think it's true. And and so I'm really curious. I mean, of course, you don't have to tell us everything, but how did you how did you get to this, like, part owner relationship with Herban? Because that's a pretty prized position, I would say. And, you know, as you mentioned, like a lot of people in urban ag don't look like you don't come from your background. And, you know, I think that it would be amazing if more and more places had ownership that was representative of communities that they're in. And so how how do you do it? Like, what's the what's the tip for people who wanna end up in your situation.

[00:55:28.680] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

So, like I said, I started off as a green house manager. That's what, that's the position I was being hired. But I sat at the table and I looked very square in his eye and I was like, you mean to tell me I'm going to be running this whole thing by myself and I'm going to help to build it? I was like, I want equity, but it was a profit at the time. And so there was no way for me to get equity of the company that, you know, you can't distribute equity to. So when we decided that the non-profit model wasn't working anymore and we wanted to switch to a for profit model, that was the first thing on the, on the, on the conversation, he said, you know what, you mentioned equity when we first started. You know, let's, you just become majority owner and that's just that. And so that's how that conversation went. So one, he's a good person because I know a lot of people wouldn't of said that kind of risk. But it's just. But he understands that, because he, you know, he does something on the side. And I was the one that was, you know, soldiering up and running the business, that I worked hard for it. And that's what I did. So even before I became co-owner, when it was a non-profit, I was working hard at trying to figure out how to make the company more money, how to change the operation so that it would become sustainable. I saw it as my own. And what I see in a lot of young people today is that they think that just because they come on site that they deserve, you know, a higher salary and they haven't really put in the work. And so I'm so glad I listened to this podcast like my entire 20s. It's this lady named Myleik Teele and she is the owner of Curl Box. Have you ever heard of the subscription service?

[00:57:30.320] - Robert Laing

Yeah, I think so, yeah. Yeah.

[00:57:32.000] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

So she has this podcast where she just kind of gives out all of her tips of the trade and so she would talk about millennials all the time and how, how entitled we are. And so I did a lot of that work before getting on the urban team of ways in which you have to prove yourself and you just have to do the work and be the best at what you do in order to reap the benefits. And so that's kind of what I did. I worked I, worked my ass off, right, for him to get that offer to me. So. Yeah.

[00:58:11.630] - Robert Laing

And did you come up with this idea of asking for equity from that podcast or that you had it was in the back of your mind, like how how do you start thinking about that?

[00:58:21.440] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

OK, so I've always been around very, I don't wanna say wealthy, but powerful people. So the nonprofit work that I talked about previously was an organization that was deeply rooted in Chicago. And, so I've always been around high powered individuals, whether it's in government, the entertainment industry, you know, that type of thing. So I really paid attention to the way in which these people move and navigate throughout the world. And so I know that equity is one of the biggest parts of that. Having some kind of ownership is a contributor to wealth. And so I know that that's something that I wanted for myself. I mean, no, I let's say Herban has a long way to go, but that's just something that I wanted for myself. And so just having that education before, to just know what to, what to expect and what to ask for, especially when the company is a startup, was, I guess, previous knowledge.

[00:59:28.950] - Robert Laing

And how did it feel asking because, you know, personally, I have trouble asking for stuff sometimes, right? And then, you know, and I, and I think something, you know, I feel like in the world there's like two kinds of people. Some people, it's just so easy. They just ask. And then if they don't get it, they don't get. But like, it's hard for a lot of people to just ask.

[00:59:50.020] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

Yeah, I think I had an out of body experience because usually I am I am slow to ask for things that I want. But I was looking at what the offer was at the time and I was just like, wow, I could go to a lab and make, you know, more money or I can take this opportunity to build something meaningful. And so I wanted to do that. And I was really passionate about the work. And so I guess that's what gave me the courage to ask for it, because I really did. I was really deeply connected to the work that I was about to do.

[01:00:32.400] - Robert Laing

And when you're in that kind of situation, do you ask for advice from folks in your family or anything like that? But yeah, you do. Yeah.

[01:00:42.000] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

So I always say that my dad is my financial guru. So he was the one that kind of coached me through, he coaches me through all my financial my financial moves. But he was the one that was like, OK, yeah, I agree with you. You should ask for it, it's a fair question and just see what happens. And my husband is also a big encourager of just asking, just ask, I mean, what's the worst that can happen? They could say no. So, just the encouragement of them just really helped me to like, just ask.

[01:01:16.350] - Robert Laing

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

[01:01:17.650] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

I know it's something typically that women don't women historically don't ask for what they want because they feel like they're not going to get it or they're going to be challenged. And the thing about. But he didn't challenge me, you know, which was encouraging because I think had he challenged me on it, I probably would have been more prone to retreat. But he didn't like he didn't challenge me. He was like, well, let's let's just table it and let's talk about it later. And he, he really, you know, came through on his word.

[01:01:47.610] - Robert Laing

Do you ever see, like, a similar dynamic with people working for you, because now you're sort of a little bit on the other side of the table sometimes, right? Do you like because I know you personally, sometimes I spot it where you've got someone great who, sometimes I tell them like, oh, you know what? Like if you just give me a proposal of what you want, you're going to get it, you know? Do you ever see stuff like that from your side of the table?

[01:02:12.210] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

So, our recent hire the farm manager that we just hired? She's such a go getter. And so it's really important to me now to hire based off of personality. Somewhat skill set? I don't know if you've seen the same thing, but personality, I think, is a big driver. And when you're running a startup like as small as ours, personality is going to go way longer. And so her having that same entrepreneurial spirit is is great. So I'm like, that's key. Everyone we hire just has to have that ownership over the farm because that's the only way it's going to continue to grow.

[01:02:51.540] - Robert Laing

Yeah, yeah. A hundred percent. How do you how do you interview people then? What are your what are your tips?

[01:03:00.740] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

I don't know, I feel like I'm still not good at it.

[01:03:04.520] - Robert Laing

That probably means you're pretty good because like people who think they're really good at it, are not good at it.

[01:03:10.110] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

I've tried it. So it starts off. I try to make it very conversational, you know, more of a conversation of, OK, do I even connect with this person? Because we all know that people beef up their resumes and they say they know how to do one thing, but they really don't. So just to have a conversation and then, you know, kind of get a deeper connection and then, you know, just start and I think asking a lot of troubleshooting questions like how would you troubleshoot this, this scenario? Has really helped me. So just like seeing how they respond to pressure, because we all know, like working in a farming environment is a lot of pressure. Things could go wrong at the blink of an eye if, you know, reservoir runs dry, all the plants are dead. OK, we have all these orders to fulfill. What do you do? You know, just waiting and hearing those answers of how people troubleshoot has been a big plus. And for the lower tier jobs, the like farmhands, we do work days, so we actually get to see them in, in action. So that's really helped a lot too. So doing a little short interview, but really having it be OK, I'm working alongside you, so I really get to see who you are and how you work, how fast you work and what your experience is if you actually know how to harvest it because you said you did, you know, so...

[01:04:42.770] - Robert Laing

Yeah, I think that's, that's like you can't you can't hire anyone on the farm without doing that, because the person who looks amazing on paper, like, even people who've had experience in other farms who like and then you bring them on the farm and then it's like, OK, I mean, we had I remember we had one guy and it was the, it was this perfect scenario because we had all these trays that were being moved around. And he didn't really, I wasn't like spying on him, like, definitely not, but I was just walking past and I just saw him, he dropped one of the trays on the floor. So all the produce got dirty. And he just sort of, and then he put it back on the shelf. I was like, all right, well, that's the end of that then, you know? But it's the kind of thing where in an interview, you never, you'd never even get to the bottom of that, you know, anyway. But yeah. So so you have to do something that I totally agree. And so what do you what do you think that your mistakes have been? I'm definitely someone who has made mistakes in terms of, you know, all kinds of things. But like, you know, after having done this for a couple of years, what like, you know, if you could look back and warn your younger self, like, not to do this or that, what do you think it ought be?

[01:06:06.460] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

So when I first started, I didn't realize how important models were.

[01:06:14.800] - Robert Laing

What do you mean by that?

[01:06:15.500] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

Like, financial models? Oh, and just like diving into the data and the numbers. And so at first we were just doing with out like really measuring all that was done to figure out what made sense. And so. And at first, I wish I would have taken the time to really record more data so that I would be able to project better because. As you know, like you have to figure out what makes sense in order to make a farming business sustainable. So, yeah.

[01:06:55.920] - Robert Laing

Yeah, it's tough, isn't it, because the margins are so tight often. And the other thing we found with collecting data is like it can be a really laborious process to collect the data. Right. And then people get really frustrated and they're like, wait, I don't have time to do this. And then you're like, oh yeah, I guess so. And so we've, we've gone back and forwards on it and we're sort of in the middle of collecting new data now because we've completely changed the model. And we were sort of literally today, we were talking about how much labor it would take to do a bigger area. And then we realized that a lot of the time we're taking right now is just weighing stuff. And then if we were growing three times as much stuff, we wouldn't need to weigh three times, you know. Anyway.

[01:07:39.500] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

Yeah, the data collecting gets so tough, and I was by myself at the time, so it was really hard for me to, to sell and, you know, meet the demand of production and also take the time to collect data and project. So, yeah...

[01:07:56.690] - Robert Laing

So I want to I want to talk about maybe two more things. And one of them is molecular biology to farming. And like, what do you, I guess part of me doesn't even sort of, I didn't do very well in biology, in school, and so how did you decide to go into molecular biology? How did you then go like, OK, I'm going to abandon all of that? Do you think you're ever going to sort of go back that way or like introduce some of that kind of science aspect into what you guys are doing? Like, how does it fit into your worldview now?

[01:08:40.650] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

Yeah, so it's very intertwined. I have applied a lot of my scientific training to farming because it's all interconnected. An example of that was figuring out the nutrient content of our water in our hydroponic greenhouse. So a lot of, I told you before there was a stigma of hybrid hydroponic lettuce in chef world, especially top tier chef, they didn't want anything to do it. They're, like, oh their lettuce sad, it tastes like water. It wilts after three minutes. I don't want any part of it. I'm like, no, I've worked really hard at changing the nutrient content of my water. So it's more soil like, you know, I did. So yeah, just that part has been really fun and trying to figure out the perfect nutrient mix of our water and how that provides the soil like environment for the crops. So that's that's fun. And so I got into the science world because I originally wanted to be a medical doctor like every other person that chooses a science major and on their freshman year, they want to go to med school. So that was my original dream and it didn't work out the first time for me. So I actually graduated with a degree in anthropology.

[01:10:08.100] - Robert Laing

Oh, OK.

[01:10:09.580] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

That was my bachelor's degree. And so after I graduated at the time, I was doing field research. And so I did field research in, in Costa Rica and I wanted to do field research in the Himalayas, but my parents wouldn't let me go.

[01:10:31.870] - Robert Laing

Why not?

[01:10:34.250] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

So the nature of the work, they were like, no, we wouldn't be able to have contact with you. I'm like, No, I'll just be, I'll just be, you know, going from village to village and providing it was like something it was something crazy. And then I was like, well, OK, can I do research in Japan? And I like, you know what, Alicia? No. So that just kind of killed my whole, you know, field research career. And I was like, well, I still want to do some aspect of research. Let me go back to school. They like, fine, but you have to pay for it. And so I ended up, you know, going back and reregistering and starting a biology program and that I was like I just kept going. So the the goal was to either, to get a PhD. And so by the end of my master's thesis, I was so done with school. I was like, no, I have to stop now and I need to get a job, I can't I can't go through another dissertation or another thesis defense. It was so stressful. And so I decided to try to find, like, you know, non-traditional jobs or jobs with startups. And so I think at the time I was looking at cool companies like Impossible Meats. It was another like startup that was happening and they were looking for a scientist. And so I started looking at like cool jobs like that. But there was a startup right around the corner. And so once I got in the work, I realized how interconnected science is with farming. So it's been kind of fun to let the science lead what we do.

[01:12:16.580] - Robert Laing

Yeah. No, that's cool, I didn't realize that whole history, anthropology. Wow. Yeah.

[01:12:25.550] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

It's so funny how it's like full circle because what we do, like my my anthropological background allows me to kind of dissect cultural nuances that I don't think I would have been aware of had I not had that, that training or that background.

[01:12:49.200] - Robert Laing

Give me an example.

[01:12:50.750] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

So, you know, just the way in which, you know, certain people, why they behave the way that they do and why they make the decisions that they make and not necessarily being judgmental about it, but really dissecting it and trying to implement programming that makes where you meet people where they are not necessarily trying to change them. So that has been so it's kind of like emerging myself in the culture because, you know, just because, you know, and then realizing my differences, because, you know, everyone that lives in East Garfield Park, we aren't a monolith. Right. We're all different. We all have different cultural experiences. Even me as a black woman who moved back here as an adult versus someone who was raised here, we have two totally life life experiences. So just being aware of that and how to create programming and communicate all that plays a big role into it.

[01:13:52.820] - Robert Laing

Yeah, yeah. And I'm sure as a manager as well and as a leader in the company. Right. You know, I think that, you know, you can't create companies that are just echoes of yourself and you can also create companies that have a diverse selection of views and people. And I think those companies tend to be healthier, you know, and and so having that anthropological understanding, that can only help, right? I think. So I guess we're we're not quite out of time. But I want to ask you one more thing, which is sort of what, what do you think the future holds? And like there's a journey for Herban produce or urban produce. I pronounce Herb weirdly.

[01:14:37.830] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

Yeah, fine. I like the way you pronouncing it.

[01:14:42.650] - Robert Laing

But, yeah, what's your aspiration there? Because I think that you've got something really, really interesting in that you have an urban farm that has many, many facets to it, as you said, partly to stay sustainable. As you know, you need different revenue streams. You need different things going on, but you sort of seem to be acquiring more and more land as well. So it looks like, you know, you just kind of take over the whole west side of Chicago at some point, which would be amazing. Like, where do you think you can take it and where also do you think urban agriculture can get to in the next 10, 20 years? Like what's your aspiration there?

[01:15:20.960] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

Yeah, so I hope that urban produce can really become a model for urban agriculture, because one thing I really haven't seen in this industry is collaboration, right, everyone figures out how to make their operation works, they kind of operate in a silo and they don't share anything with anyone else outside of those parameters. And so. I'm like, it's OK to share, like it's no way that we can all provide enough produce to sustain the population. So that idea of collaboration and sharing with other producers I think is really, really important. So I hope that Herban Produce can really grow in that whole educational realm. And that's not just through us, just, you know, trying to find a means of income, but based off of the successes that we've experienced at the farm. So hopefully all of this, you know, R&D and blood, sweat and tears will, will pay off so that we will be able to help someone to kind of establish a seamless operation and be able to do it. And for anyone to be able to do it, you know, like from how to raise money for it, you know, like all of this stuff. So I think that's really where I kind of see us, like, so we're creating this model and then hopefully we're able to help future farmers.

[01:16:55.570] - Robert Laing

Yeah. So if you could kind of send a message that was like Alisha's Vision 2030 urban agriculture, what would that be?

[01:17:07.100] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

Oh, my gosh, I wish Barry was on this call.

[01:17:11.930] - Robert Laing

Barry would say, Alicia, you should answer this.

[01:17:14.300] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

No, right? No, no, no. So we both are nerds, right? And so we have this idea of the oxygen positive model. Right. So now let's talking about carbon neutral. Everyone's talking about carbon neutral, but we have this idea of really intertwining technology and in farming so that we become this oxygen positive business. So, of course, we we figure out how to do what do you call the heating method? Oh, gosh.

[01:17:54.260] - Robert Laing

Geothermal or no? What are do you know? Sorry. Go on.

[01:17:59.240] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

Now, what is it called where you get, um, what is it a byproduct of. What is it.

[01:18:05.500] - Robert Laing

Oh like like compost. Giving off heat is it?

[01:18:08.720] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

Yeah like something that gives off heat. Right. So you get that natural kind of heating method. We cut off so this is, so using like, you know, energy powered vehicles. Of course, we use less water in our, in our farming methods, but we have to figure it out for the traditional ag side. And so, like, just, you know, being the stewards of the environment so that we're able we're carbon neutral. But, you know, where amongst all this green light. Right. So our plants give off oxygen. So we're oxygen positive. So it's kind of like this lofty idea that Barry and I have been kicking around for the past few years. But yeah.

[01:18:52.030] - Robert Laing

Yeah, that's so cool. No, I think it's a nice oxygen positive should be the next carbon neutral. You know, I'm I'm I'm into it. Yeah, I think we I think we can play a part of that and be super cool. Very cool. All right. Well, it's been amazing talking to you, Alicia. Thank you so much for sharing your stories and your routines and your vitamins and like everything. It's so good, where can people catch you guys online and social, all that kind of stuff?

[01:19:26.070] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

Yeah, so you can catch us at herbanproduce.com, that's H E R B A N, and so that's all of our tags on social media, IG and Facebook. I'm personally @bb_bluff on Instagram so you can talk to me. I know that's a that's a long story about how I ended up bb_bluff, but yeah, I may change it to my name eventually, but I just can't part with that handle. Yeah. That's how you can find us.

[01:19:58.080] - Robert Laing

Amazing. And then, and then hopefully in the spring or in the summer next year, people will be able to go and visit, maybe stay on the farm as well, right.

[01:20:05.560] - Alicia Nesbary-Moore

Yeah. Yeah.

[01:20:07.320] - Robert Laing

Very cool. OK, well thank you very much. Alright. It's a wrap.