To open first Chicago restaurant, Sweetgreen had to first find the farms

The farm is quiet but constantly moving, as the faint sound of bleats in the distance breaks the silence.

Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery in Champaign was making cheese from its herd of 75 milking goats on a recent afternoon just like any other, but this time for a very different customer. The 13-year-old organic farm is the primary regional supplier of goat cheese for salad chain Sweetgreen, which opens its first Chicago location Tuesday.

Sweetgreen has 11 locations in Washington, D.C, where it got its start, 33 other stores along the East Coast and five in California. For its first store in the Midwest the salad chain, which is committed to locally grown foods and sustainable farming, had to develop a new farm supply and distribution system from scratch.

It’s a rare path in the restaurant industry and virtually unheard of in fast food, but the method has become status quo for Sweetgreen. Founded in 2007 by three Georgetown University students, Sweetgreen bases its menu on seasonal produce that varies depending on location. The menu changes five times a year and features salad and grain bowls with house-made dressings that range from about $9 to $12. Beverages also are made daily in-store.