It wasn’t until they each moved to Chicago to attend DePaul University that Andy Chae and Amy Eckert became enamored with urban agriculture and the opportunity it presents to positively impact the world. They each pursued volunteer and apprenticeship opportunities throughout their studies, and after graduating, traveled to Brazil to work on an organic farm. They eventually returned to Andy’s home in Detroit, and where many others saw vacant lots, Andy and Amy saw a farming future. Thanks to family in the neighboring Kimbrough Dry Cleaners, the pair broke ground on their first site in the West Village in 2015. They made $10,000 in the first year, and the success spurred the purchase of land in Pontiac to expand the project in 2016. Andy and Amy were married on the site in September of 2018, a reminder that in addition to growing good food, nurturing strong community and providing space for inspiration and celebration are equally important aspects of Fisheye Farm’s mission.
Reason for Loan
After two years of splitting time between the borrowed land in Detroit and the plot in Pontiac, financial backing from Steward allowed the Fisheye Farms team to purchase nine vacant properties in the Core City. These adjacent lots combine to form a .89 acre farm which serves as Fisheye’s main production site. The newly acquired land provides additional growing space so Andy and Amy can keep up with restaurant demand. The loan also supported the construction of a washing, packing, and shipping area, as well as the establishment of utilities like plumbing and electricity, and a new hoophouse.
Through consultation with Steward, as of 2019, Fisheye Farms is fully focused on supplying Detroit restaurants—a market large enough to sustain their new efforts. The additional acreage is being cultivated and planted in the style of permaculture design, with the crops that require the most attention at the closest sites, while the Pontiac site is dedicated to low-maintenance garlic production. Andy is committed to developing and maturing the various farm sites by planting perennials, trees, berries, and flowers to improve farm biodiversity and yield. Currently, Fisheye Farms is investing in insect netting to reduce pest pressure without the use of insecticides.