Kaitlin Soto founded Flourish Juice Co. in 2016 and operates her business out of Joliet, Illinois. The juices, smoothies, coffees, and specialty elixirs the company produces were born out of a passion for nutrition and for seeing transparent and healthy food options available locally in northern Illinois.
But something has been missing.
“By producing high quality juices, I feel like I’m fulfilling my purpose only a third of the way,” said Kaitlin.
As Flourish got rolling, questions about the supply chain of fresh, organic fruits and produce kept popping up, especially when the Covid-19 pandemic began. She has seen both the quality and consistency suffer. That is something she refuses to accept. “I don’t like getting cases of produce and wondering where it came from,” she says.
Kaitlin saw farming as an appealing solution.
In 2021, her and her team at Flourish decided to test what it would take to move toward a more self-sufficient supply model. That year they grew hundreds of pounds of vegetables that they used in their juices on less than 1/4 acre. If she could get the right scale, resources, and skills, Kaitlin now saw that she could make her dream of greater supply independence become a reality. A farm vision was born – the second third of her purpose.
Kaitlin knew starting a farm would be a serious undertaking. So, in 2022 she enrolled in Stateline Farm Beginnings, a program of Angelic Organics Learning Center. This program helps beginning farmers foster their farm dream through business planning and hands-on mentoring. Realizing that she needed land, she started looking for farmland connections and resources nearby and came across illinoisfarmlink.org and created a farmer profile.
Kaitlin is seeking to lease 3-5 acres of land to begin growing organic produce for the upcoming growing season. By the end of 2022, her goal is to have grown 40% of Flourish’s own produce for juice production. As both a business owner and mom, proximity to Joliet is important for Kaitlin. Water access would also be desired, along with the potential to build a greenhouse in the future for four-season growing.
Not only is Kaitlin enthusiastic about resolving the supply chain issues, she’s also jazzed about expanding on her lifelong love of gardening and growing food.
“There’s nothing in the world,” she says, “like starting your own healthy food from seed and nourishing it until it’s time for the food to nourish you!”
So, what is the remaining third Kaitlin feels is missing? In addition to the juice company and the farming, Kaitlin envisions a “circular economy” that helps both people and planet flourish. This vision includes volunteers digging their hands in the soil and connecting around local food at the farm, composting juice pulp and returning it to the land as nourishment, and being able to reliably supply her customers with the freshest, locally grown products available.
Securing farmland will be integral to realizing that vision.
If you know of a land opportunity near Joliet or would like to connect with Kaitlin, you can reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. We wish you the best, Kaitlin, in reaching your farm vision for 2022 and beyond!