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NBCBLK28: Darius Jones: A Hard-knock Teen Turned Urban Farmer

“I’m just excited to have the opportunity to be in the position where I can hire guys who were like me when I was 19 and 20 years old."
Image: Darius Jones
Darius Jones.Katie Whitehurst

Darius Jones, 25, Chicago

VP & General Manager, Garfield Produce

As a teen growing up on Chicago’s West Side, Darius Jones got in trouble with the law.

He pleaded guilty to a felony and spent two years locked up. But the time spent at Cook County Jail led him to a garden boot camp. And that garden program led him to his life’s work: urban agriculture.

“The only reason I wanted to work for the garden was because, over the two years of sitting in max, I only went outside twice,” said Jones, who grew up in Chicago’s East Garfield Park neighborhood. “It helped me reflect on life. It helped me to reevaluate my situation.”

After getting out of jail, he participated in a program at the Chicago Botanic Garden, completed a job training program at Windy City Harvest and went back to intern at the Chicago Botanic Garden, where he managed operations at local farmer’s markets.


Today Jones is Vice President and General Manager at Garfield Produce, which is an indoor, hydroponic farm. He spends his days meeting with community members and would-be funders while also drumming up support for the fresh food wholesaler.

The farm offers skills training, creates jobs and helps local residents develop new careers. Plus, Jones knows from experience that urban farming is a tranquil space that is welcoming to people from diverse backgrounds. It was also calming to a kid who needed a way out.

“Overall, I’m just excited to have the opportunity to be in the position where I can hire guys who were like me when I was 19 and 20 years old,” said Jones. “And I think that’s the best part.”


MY DAY STARTS WITH a podcast or some music, coffee and checking my email

ONE THING I WISH I KNEW ABOUT THE INDUSTRY WHEN I FIRST STARTED I wish I knew that there were power players in the industry when I started. I would have started making relationships with them right away, rather than this late in my career.

WHAT'S THE SOUNDTRACK TO YOUR DAY? Marvin Gaye, ”Trouble Man” soundtrack

MY SELF-CARE RITUAL INVOLVES I eat pretty good. I eat healthy. I drink a lot of water. Throughout the day I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables.

WHAT DOES BLACK EXCELLENCE LOOK LIKE IN 2017? Black excellence means someone who faces adversity, someone who faces challenges, someone who faces ridicule or criticism and who takes all these negative things and uses it to fuel their soul to continue to be positive and bright and strive for success and prosperity.

MOST PEOPLE PROBABLY DON'T KNOW THAT I LOVE/HATE I love cartoon movies. I hate partying. I don’t like partying. I hate crowds.

NBCBLK28 2017 Honorees
NBCBLK is using the 28 days in the month of February to honor 28 of the nation's most impressive innovators, all 28 years and younger. Get to know the #NBCBLK28 class of 2017.

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