At the onset of our exploration, I asked the explorers to tell me something about Back of the Yards, and they said, “It's dirty, and there's alleys.” I told them I was talking about the Back of the Yards neighborhood, not the back yard.
After a brief overview of the Stock Yard history, I told the explorers they should check out the book The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. It breaks down the sanitary issues of working in the stock yards in the early 1900s much better than I can.
When we arrived to the Back of the Yards neighborhood, the explorers commented about the smell in the air. I told them it's a mixture of the Tyson chicken plant and a manufacturing company that's creating cosmetic products from animal fat.
When we arrived to "the plant," the explorers took a tour of this refurbished meat packing facility that now hosts a salt water shrimp farm, kombucha brewery, mushroom farm and strawberry garden.
Kassie, our guide, asked the explorers if they knew what hydroponic means and then explained that it means plants growing in water.
Then we approached the next tank and pipes, where algae was being grown. The facility grows algae and uses magnets in the inside and outside of the fish tanks to collect it. One of the explorers asked whether too much algae is bad.
Kassie responded that too much algae in a fish tank at home is bad, but it has a purpose at the plant. The algae is growing off waste from their shrimp farm and grain from their brewery. The algae is then dehydrated and fed to fish. Then the fish can be eaten.
Kassie then asked the explorers if anybody knew what anaerobic meant. One of the explorers said flexible. Kassie said, “Not aerobic, anaerobic.” She explained that anaerobic means without oxygen. The plant holds an anaerobic processor used at the water reclamation center to process waste. They use it at the plant to break down food waste and turn it into gas, and that gas is used to heat the building.
The explorers then learned about mushrooms and how mushrooms growing on a log break the log down and convert the log into mushroom. Mushrooms also breathe oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide so mushrooms are closer to animals than plants.
On the way out, the explorers got to pick and eat fresh strawberries.
We ate lunch at La Internacional Supermarcado. It's a hidden gem restaurant in the back of a supermarket in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. They literally have the best tacos in Chicago. You'd never know it was back there because it fronts as a grocery store.
We passed by a nice house on their way back to school, and the explorers mentioned that the house shouldn't be in their community. It's too fresh.