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Jim Murphy  Photo by Lisa Predko

The Tasty All-Year Tomato

MightyVine

The idea:A juicy, delicious tomato, even in winter

The aha moment:If you eat a tomato in February, you can bet it will be mealy, watery, and bland. Jim Murphy, 64, a serial entrepreneur who cofounded the West Town grocery store Local Foods, wanted to change that—and looked to the Dutch technique for farming the fruit. While visiting the Netherlands, he learned that the massive greenhouses used there, which funnel rainwater to irrigate crops and rely on natural light to reduce energy consumption, allow tomatoes to grow in any climate.

Since then:Flavorful tomatoes will never again have to commute more than two hours to get to Chicago. Murphy started MightyVine in 2014, bringing on his son Danny as director of sales and business development and Local Foods general counsel Gary Lazarski as CEO. They opened a 7.5-acre greenhouse in Rochelle, 80 miles west of Chicago, and picked their first batch that fall. Eventually, they began supplying Whole Foods and 10 other regional grocers, as well as such top-tier Chicago restaurants as Frontera Grill and Monteverde. The demand has been strong enough that the company added a second greenhouse next to the existing one in 2016, doubling production. This January, when most Midwestern farmers were hibernating, MightyVine harvested 630,000 pounds of tomatoes—and sold them all.

The idea:A juicy, delicious tomato, even in winter

The aha moment:If you eat a tomato in February, you can bet it will be mealy, watery, and bland. Jim Murphy, 64, a serial entrepreneur who cofounded the West Town grocery store Local Foods, wanted to change that—and looked to the Dutch technique for farming the fruit. While visiting the Netherlands, he learned that the massive greenhouses used there, which funnel rainwater to irrigate crops and rely on natural light to reduce energy consumption, allow tomatoes to grow in any climate.

Since then:Flavorful tomatoes will never again have to commute more than two hours to get to Chicago. Murphy started MightyVine in 2014, bringing on his son Danny as director of sales and business development and Local Foods general counsel Gary Lazarski as CEO. They opened a 7.5-acre greenhouse in Rochelle, 80 miles west of Chicago, and picked their first batch that fall. Eventually, they began supplying Whole Foods and 10 other regional grocers, as well as such top-tier Chicago restaurants as Frontera Grill and Monteverde. The demand has been strong enough that the company added a second greenhouse next to the existing one in 2016, doubling production. This January, when most Midwestern farmers were hibernating, MightyVine harvested 630,000 pounds of tomatoes—and sold them all.

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