Government

Salad days ahead: Greenhouse lettuce farm to bring jobs to Yorkville

Eldamain Road salad greens operation would cover 100 acres

Yorkville City Hall

YORKVILLE – A greenhouse lettuce farm could be starting up operations in Yorkville as early as next year.

Bright Farms is planning the indoor agricultural enterprise on a 100-acre site at the northeast corner of Eldamain and Corneils roads on the far northwest side of the city, north of the Menards Distribution Center.

The city of Yorkville is moving ahead with plans to seek a $1 million federal Community Development Block Grant to help finance the extension of a sanitary sewer line to serve the property.

Sean O’Neill of Bright Farms told the Yorkville City Council via Zoom on Jan. 11 that the first of the greenhouse “modules” could be in operation by the first quarter of 2023.

Ultimately, the lettuce farm will be employing between 160 and 200 workers to grow the salad greens, O’Neill said.

Bright Farms started in rural Pennsylvania with a 40,000-square-foot greenhouse. The company’s business model is to grow fresh local lettuce and herbs to be shipped directly to retailers within 24 hours for a longer shelf life and smaller carbon footprint.

Because the grower cannot use chlorinated city water, it will drill a well on-site to water the lettuce.

O’Neill said the farm will use recapture methods to conserve water use, and to collect rainwater, as well.

“We aim to be as low-impact on the water as we can,” O’Neill told the aldermen.

City Administrator Bart Olson said the project fits with the city’s plans to develop the Eldamain Road corridor for manufacturing and industrial uses.

Olson said the city is considering alternatives for siting the sewer line along Corneils Road to reach the property. He said the total cost of extending the line is estimated at more than $3 million.

“During our recruitment meetings with Bright Farms, they understood the utility issues in the region and expressed a willingness to fund and assist with efforts to extend the utilities to their proposed site,” Olson told the council.

“They have verbally indicated that they would be willing to make progress payments on the design engineering agreement and all of the construction costs for the sewer utility extension, subject to a development agreement that indicates how they recapture costs from other benefiting properties in the region,” Olson said.

“Indirectly, this engineering agreement is related to the city council’s prior goals to develop manufacturing and industrial properties throughout the city, and specifically along the Eldamain corridor,” Olson said.