Hydroponic farm owner seeks to democratize the food system and change the narrative
Derek Drake enters his hydroponic farm where he grows several types of lettuces, herbs, leafy greens and root vegetables. - Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/TNS

CHICAGO — If it hadn’t been for the pandemic, Derek Drake would have never discovered his purpose. Furloughed from his job at Northwestern University in 2020, he asked himself: “What’s the right next move?” That move was taking his 25-year working experience in hospitality and restaurants and starting a farming business. That motto is ever present on a small dry erase board on the interior wall of a 320-square-foot hydroponic farm in a trailer container in Mokena, Illinois. The farm sits in view of a picturesque lake with catfish and bluegill, and in between Drake’s home and the chicken coop t...