Between our dedicated staff and ever-growing legion of extraordinary volunteers, we have centuries of experience building, teaching and revitalizing urban communities. Together, we’re working to change the way we, as a city, think about our food and our environment.

Our Mission

To develop circular economies of food production, energy conservation and material reuse, while empowering people of all backgrounds to make their cities healthier and more efficient.

What is a Circular Economy?

In a circular economy, conventional waste streams from one process are repurposed as inputs for another, creating a circular, closed-loop model of material reuse.

What We Do

We equip people and businesses with the tools to live more sustainably through community-driven, hands-on programs and innovative tech demonstration projects.

History

Plant Chicago is a non-profit organization established in 2011 by John Edel. His company, Bubbly Dynamics, LLC, is also owner and operator of our home, The Plant, a groundbreaking food production space designed to be a net-zero, closed loop system in Chicago’s Back of the Yards.

Staff: Details

Staff

  • Jonathan Pereira, Executive Director

    Jonathan Pereira Executive Director

    Jonathan has over 15 years of experience in science and arts education, primarily in informal and non-traditional learning environments. Specializing in environmental education and youth development programs in urban areas, he has worked with youth in projects ranging from renewable energy to natural resource conservation. He most recently served as Youth Program Manager for Greencorps Chicago, which engaged 800 Chicago Public School students in bike maintenance and horticulture projects across the city.

  • Kassandra Hinrichsen, Education and Outreach Manager

    Kassandra Hinrichsen Education and Outreach Manager

    Kassie has been involved with The Plant and Plant Chicago since December 2013. After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Global Studies and Environmental Science, she continued her education while traveling through South America, working on permaculture farms in Ecuador and Colombia. Upon returning to the States, Kassie coordinated an after school farming program at a bilingual elementary school in Tucson, AZ. She is extremely excited to increase Plant Chicago’s engagement with the students and families living in the Back of the Yards community.

  • Liz Lyon, Market Manager

    Liz Lyon Market Manager

    Liz officially joined the Plant Chicago team in April 2015 after volunteering as a tour guide and general painter/deconstruction-helper at The Plant for over a year. She has previously served in outreach roles for several Chicago non-profits and worked with various farms and farmers markets on the South Side. As Market Manager, she’s thrilled to address health, food access and sustainability issues through Plant Chicago’s Farmers Market and Farmstand project.

  • Jessica Zeiger, Mycologist

    Jessica Zeiger Urban Agriculture Specialist

    Jessica is thrilled to be working with mushrooms, having joined Plant Chicago’s Mycology program in 2015. She has been fascinated by fungus ever since 2011, when she first inoculated logs with shiitake and she’d love to see mushrooms growing in more urban farms and gardens. Jessica is a graduate of the Windy City Harvest Apprenticeship, an urban agriculture training program, at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Her apprenticeship included working with Christy Webber Landscapes to install and maintain the edible displays at Millennium Park and Homestead Restaurant’s rooftop garden. She holds certifications in Permaculture Design from Colorado Mesa University and GAPS (Good Agricultural Practices) food safety training from University of Illinois Extension. Before her work in urban agriculture, she studied epidemiology and worked in the public health field.

  • Eric Weber, Technology Coordinator

    Eric Weber Technology Coordinator

    Eric joined Plant Chicago in 2012 as an aquaponics intern, and now oversees the day-to-day management of the aquaponics farm. In addition to fixing leaks (a full time job itself), he makes sure the fish and plants are happy and that the farm runs smoothly. Previously Eric has worked in aquarium design, installation and maintenance in the south suburbs, and he currently owns a business building aquariums, terrariums and custom furniture. His other interests include running, cycling, drawing and painting.

Board of Directors

  • Ryan Wilson, President

    Ryan Wilson President

    Ryan is a landscape architect working in the fields of infrastructure, community development and innovation at Elevate Energy. He is leading development of new water services that will help affordable housing providers reduce waste and lower costs for providing safe and healthy housing to those who need it most. He has served as faculty at Archeworks and adjunct faculty at the IIT School of Architecture. Ryan is a founding director of Plant Chicago.

  • John Mulrow, Board Member

    John Mulrow Vice President

    John was previously the Industrial Sustainability Specialist at the University of Illinois, where he worked with major Illinois-based industries to reduce and reuse waste, water and energy. John promotes composting and food waste reduction as a member of the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition, and writes about the zero waste revolution at On the New Economy. He is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago, focusing on models of closed-loop food and energy production, like The Plant.

  • Paul H. Fricke, Treasurer

    Paul H. Fricke Treasurer

    Paul is a retired Chartered Financial Analyst who served for 40 years as an investment executive, analyst and portfolio manager for firms including Segall Bryant & Hamill, Principal Financial, Household International and Allstate Insurance. Paul earned his MBA from the University of Chicago, served as a captain in the US Army Corps of Engineers and holds a Bachelor of Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

  • Sia Xeros, Secretary

    Sia Xeros Secretary

    Sia is working on making the Chicagoland area a more sustainable, greener place. She serves on the Board of Directors at Plant Chicago and United States Green Building Council Emerging Professionals. Sia also co-founded The Salty Prawn, a sustainable saltwater shrimp aquaponics farms located at The Plant. She has a BS in Agricultural and Biological Engineering from the University of Illinois.

  • John Edel, Founder

    John Edel

    John is the founder of Plant Chicago and owner of Bubbly Dynamics, LLC. After purchasing the building now known as The Plant in July 2010, he immediately began deconstruction and renovation with a vision of intentional reuse, economic development and truly sustainable food. John’s first foray into building redevelopment was the Chicago Sustainable Manufacturing Center, an affordable, energy-efficient space for small and emerging manufacturers, product assemblers and other businesses committed to sustainability. In previous careers, John taught computer graphics, designed sets for broadcast television, art directed video games and worked as a chef on private railroad cars. He has a lifelong dream of combining industrial preservation and plants in a productive, conservatory-like project.

  • Allison Leifer, Board Member

    Allison Liefer

    Allison is Director of Foundation Relationships for the non-profit Common Threads. She holds a BS in Communication from Northwestern University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan. Between 2011–2014, Allison served as Manager of Community Initiatives for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and as Programs Director for Girls in the Game. Allison has worked as a writing teacher and editor, and as a pastry cook in two Chicago kitchens. She is thrilled to contribute to the Plant Chicago board, helping build sustainable change in the heart of her home city.

  • Joseph Lopez, Board Member

    Joseph Lopez

    Joe founded Envisage Strategies in 2010 and has over 13 years of knowledge and experience in economic and community development, community engagement and public administration. He has held positions in the State of Illinois and City of Chicago governments, as well as in the public finance/capital markets industry. Joe has extensive experience in public policy development, public health and education, financial/budget analysis and management, community and economic development, performance management, sustainability planning, coalition building, contracts and grants development, management and compliance.

  • Irina Marinescu, Board Member

    Irina Marinescu

    Irina is a finance lawyer focused on helping middle market businesses grow, largely through acquisition finance. Raised in Romania and inspired by a later stint in California, Irina is accustomed to eating local, cares deeply about putting more local greens on the table and feels blessed to have the opportunity to help realize that goal by serving on our Board of Directors.

  • Bryant Williams, Board Member

    Bryant Williams

    Bryant serves as the Senior Director for the ReBuilding Exchange. After earning a degree in biology and environmental science at Olivet College, he spent 15 years in the field of industrial hygiene and environmental engineering. Bryant also served as the manager of engineering for the Cook County Department of Environmental Control, where he was involved in developing and implementing the Demolition Debris Diversion Ordinance, one of the most aggressive in the Midwest. A lifelong resident of Chicago’s Southside, Bryant is excited about using his experience to help establish the Chicago-area as a world-class model of sustainability.

Advisory Committees

Plant Chicago sub-committees include leaders and professionals from many fields who volunteer their expertise and networks to support our mission.

Our Technology Advisory Committee is a diverse group of industry professionals who meet twice a year to guide our technology research.

Currently in development, Plant Chicago’s Education Advisory Committee brings together educators to steer our educational programming.

The Plant Chicago Auxiliary Board organizes fundraising and community outreach events throughout the year.

Want to learn more? Email us with any inquiries.

Sponsors + Partners

We work with organizations and institutions across Chicago and the world who share our commitment to sustainable food production and economic development.

  • Bubbly Dynamics
  • Experimental Station
  • Back of the Yards Library
  • Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council
  • Back of the Yards Peace and Education Coalition
  • 15th Ward Alderman Raymond Lopez
  • Rebuilding Exchange
  • Illinois Institute of Technology
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Univerity of Chicago Booth School of Business