Ladybugs crawl on leaves after being released as part of the announcement of Second Chances Farm in Wilmington

Ladybugs crawl on leaves after being released as part of the announcement of Second Chances Farm in Wilmington

Ladybugs are the official bug of Delaware, and they just happen to help fight pests in gardens, and that’s why 10,000 of them were used to help celebrate the debut of the Second Chances Farm in Wilmington.

The 47,000 sq. ft. building that once housed Opportunity Center in the Riverside section of the city is in the process of being converted into housing a series of LED lit structures that will be able to grow various plants on a year-round basis.

Second Chances Farm founder Ajit Mathew George said the process of vertical farming will allow out-of-season plants to still be grown locally.

“Everything that from lettuce to basil to anything that restaurants, chefs, and grocery stores need. It’s leafy greens. We can grow tomatoes and everything, but you don’t want to compete with Jersey Tomatoes in the summer. It’s the stuff to grow that there’s year-round demand.”

The name Second Chances Farm refers the future employees of the building: former prisoners to have been released back into society.

George said it’s a natural fit to give an opportunity to those who might be struggling to find a foothold.

“We have a 70% recidivism rate of people re-entering prison within 3 years after they come. This gives a chance for people to break that cycle, and using the farm as an entrepreneurial tool.”

Saad Soliman of Peace by Piece, Inc. introduced some of the first workers for the new site, and said it’s a chance they don’t always get.

“Our returning citizens are always looking for an opportunity, and are seldom given that opportunity. For me, having been a returning citizen myself, I recognize the value and the need to provide a strong income for your family.”

George told WDEL back in July that their hiring will be part of an “entrepreneurship in residence.”

"At the end of the 12 months, they'll be given an opportunity--if they want to continue--to actually become our partner and they will get equity, and we've reserved 15-20 percent of equity in the farm. Our goal is to create compassionate capitalists," George explained.

Those future growers will utilize those ladybugs, who were warming the first vertical tower that was on display Monday. They’re hoping in time it will be a labyrinth of LED lights and produce ready to serve the Delaware community.