John Edel, Executive Director
John Edel is the Founder of The Plant and Executive Director of Plant Chicago. After purchasing the building in July 2010, he immediately began deconstruction and renovation with a vision of intentional reuse, economic development, and truly sustainable food. John’s foray into building redevelopment was at the Chicago Sustainable Manufacturing Center, a green business incubator in the Stockyards Industrial Corridor. As General Contractor, Edel took the facility from a burnt-out shell to 100% occupancy while using a mixture of waste-stream recycled materials and leading edge technology to make the building exceptionally energy efficient and pleasantly non-toxic. The renovation was assisted by a core group of volunteers and by bartering with suppliers, tenants and scrappers.
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.
Rachel Swenie, Myco-wrangler and Photo Documentarian
Rachel has been involved at The Plant since its inception, and has photographed the building’s transformation. She created and manages the Plant Chicago mushroom farm, which produces gourmet mushrooms year-round. Rachel is passionate about bringing interesting and unique strains of mushrooms to market, as well as educating others on the benefits of mushrooms for their own farms and gardens. Her other interests include cycling, hiking, and reading.
Joshua Burman, Mushroom Pasteurization Coordinator
Joshua is a recent graduate from IIT majoring in Biology. He got his first exposure to The Plant when he took a project class offered at IIT which worked with The Plant during Spring 2013. He worked with Rachel on understanding the mushroom growing process and has been in love with fungus ever since. He volunteered over Summer 2013 and Spring 2014 helping with the production of mushrooms and he is excited to continue cultivating mushrooms on staff. When not at the Plant he enjoys learning more about the fungal kingdom, playing bass, bicycling and travelling when he can.
Eric Weber, Aquaponic Production Coordinator
Eric joined Plant Chicago in 2012 as an aquaponics intern, and now manages the day-to-day running of the aquaponics farm. He makes sure the fish and plants are happy, fixes leaks (a full time job), and makes sure the farm runs smoothly. Previously Eric has worked in aquarium design, installation, and maintenance in the south suburbs, and currently owns a business building aquariums, terrariums, and custom furniture. His other interests include running, cycling, drawing, and painting.
Kassandra Hinrichsen, Marketing and Education Coordinator
Kassie has been involved with The Plant 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. While working on a permaculture farm in Northern Ecuador, she toured the cloud forest conducting workshops on non-chemical farming methods. Upon returning to the States, Kassie followed an opportunity to Tucson, AZ where she coordinated an afterschool farming program at a bilingual elementary school. Since moving to Chicago, she has worked as a bike messenger, aquaponic farmer, taught self-esteem classes at the Institute of Latino Progess and played some amazing soccer games. She recently returned from a few months of teaching abroad in Costa Rica and is extremely excited to help The Plant become more involved in the Back of the Yards community, and hopes to engage as many students as possible.
James Purcell, Video Producer
James joined The Plant in January of 2013. After graduating from the University of North Carolina Wilmington in 2007 with degrees in International Business and Spanish, he spent the next few years volunteering and exploring his way through South and Central America, the United States and Spain. During that time, he encountered a wide variety of social and environmental projects, many of which involved agriculture, permaculture and aquaponics. Through these experiences, James developed deep interests and unique knowledge in local food systems, food security and sustainable food production practices. He’s a flexible vegetarian, an aspiring polyglot, and loves music, travel and raw honey.