John Rivers bringing 40-acre farm to Orlando's Packing District

4 Rivers CEO hopes to break ground early next year

A Central Florida businessman is planting roots near Orlando's Packing District and unveiling plans to build a 40 acre farm in the urban area.

ORLANDO, Fla. – A Central Florida businessman is planting roots near Orlando's Packing District and unveiling plans to build a 40-acre farm in the urban area.

John Rivers, the founder and CEO of 4 Rivers Restaurant Group, said his vision has been more than three years in the making.

"We're going to build something in Orlando that doesn't exist anywhere else in the country," Rivers said. 

The farm, called 4 Roots Campus, is a 40-acre working farm near John Young Parkway and Princeton Street. It's located near Orlando's Packing District. 

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Rivers said it will tackle the community's food insecurity problems. 

"We're going after the broken food system and, specifically, you have so many people in Orange County living in food insecurity," Rivers said. "Specifically in Orange County Public Schools today, you have one in every five students that doesn't know where their next meal is going to come from."

Rivers said this is a personal mission for him.

"I've got a personal experience growing up of what it's like not to have food and not to know where that next meal is going to come from," he said. 

The first phase of the $30 million project that will be built will be made up of educational facilities, including greenhouse and classroom spaces. 

Rivers said all of the food that will be produced on the farm will go back into Orange County schools. 

He also plans to build a restaurant and a discovery center that will explore Florida's agriculture history and its future. 

"My belief is, if you're going to make a change, a big change, something that's going to turn around hunger in the community, it starts with education," he said. 

Sara Elliott is the executive director of 4 Roots. She hopes the community will come together to get results and help feed students, as well as take on the bigger hunger issue. 

"We really want to tackle this problem at its roots, so to speak, and start to solve this problem in the long term as well," Elliott said. 

Rivers hopes to break ground on the first phase within the first few months of the new year. Elliott said it could take up to five years to complete the campus.