ROCHELLE (WREX) — The third expansion of a unique tomato grow operation in Rochelle has the city and company celebrating. The company says there is another expansion already in the works.
MightyVine, which is a hydroponic farm in Rochelle, celebrated its first harvest of its phase three expansion with a ceremonial first bite. The company finished this expansion in the fall of 2019 and both the company and city are excited for what's to come.
"We're excited to be doing agriculture, but in a little bit more innovative next generation way," says Gary Lazarski, MightyVine CEO.
"A lot of times when people talk about commercial, industrial development, they think of smoke stacks and things, but this is a very clean eco-friendly company that we're just very proud to have them here," says John Bearrows, City of Rochelle mayor.
While most Illinois farmers are preparing to plant, MightyVine says its always tomato season in its 1-million square-foot hydroponic green house, where it is more than 70 degrees inside year-round. They say keeping the fruit local is key to keeping the flavor great all year.
"Historically, they've been grown in California, Mexico, Florida. Transported across the country, just do not have the flavor that you all grew up tasting from your own parents' or grandparents' back yard," says Lazarski. "So at MightyVine, our goal was to provide that memory, that sense impression that you have."
The facility has the power to harvest between 10 and 12 million pounds of hydroponic tomatoes as a whole, 4 million coming from phase three's additional space. Not only is the company providing fresh tomatoes in large quantities, but it also says it provides jobs and opportunities to help the City of Rochelle continue to grow and inspire other company's to do the same.
"I think this will only be the start to other folks looking to do the same type of thing" says Bearrow. "We do have some other grow houses in Rochelle, I think this is the first of many."
"It provides the certainty that you can raise your family in the community you were raised in and that you can find employment with a good, clean, sustainable company that produces a product that you're proud of," says Lazarski.
MightyVine says the fourth phase of expansion is already in the works and it hopes to expand into growing other fruits and vegetables in the future.