This innovative farm grows more than just fresh produce

This innovative farm grows more than just fresh produce

“Tie is our tomato person,” said Nona Yahya, co-founder and CEO of Vertical Harvest, an innovative three-story greenhouse in downtown Jackson, Wyoming.

She looked thin 6’5, “Warner carefully weaving through a huge canopy of plants, pulling ripe tomatoes hanging above, Yahya smiled proudly.” The tie is good in every part of growing tomato plants. It’s really impressive. ”

Running an indoor farm in the snowy northwest corner of Wyoming was not exactly the job Yahya envisioned for himself years ago. In 2008, after a New York City-based architect moved to Jackson to start a new company, Yahya wanted to try something new in his new community.

“We really want to address the local sustainable source of food,” he said.

The idea of ​​going upstairs

Situated between Jackson Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Teton National Forest at an altitude of 6,000 feet, its location means there is very little space and favorable weather for farmers to thrive in the bustling tourist town. .

“We came together to find an out-of-the-box solution and that’s where the idea came from,” Yahya said.

One acre off the existing parking garage was “up” on 1/10.

In the spring of 2016, Vertical Harvest began growing its first lettuce, micrograins and tomato plants. The farm’s current staff of 40 now grows year-round, and ten acres cultivate the same crop as traditional outdoor farming.

Yahya says all the grown produce is distributed in 40 local restaurants and four grocery stores.

“Nona approached him to bring something unique to the chefs that they could use throughout the year and specialize in,” said Ben Westenberg, executive chef and partner at Persephone West Bank in Wilson, near Wyoming. “It’s easy to cut a vertical harvest and all that, ‘I need some salad greens and tomatoes and some really nice micro greens.’ And they’re like, ‘Well, we’ll be there tomorrow.’

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‘We are combining innovation with the underprivileged population’

Vertical Harvest employee Ty Warner picks and cuts hundreds of indoor farm tomato plants.

While planning to build a new greenhouse, Yahya and his design team realized they had more work to do on the project than growing fresh greens for the locals.

“There was a big problem,” Yahya said. “People with physical and intellectual disabilities in our city, who wanted to work, who wanted to find consistent and meaningful work, couldn’t do it. We’re pairing innovation with a low-service population and really creating a sea of ​​vision.” About what this population can do. ”

Half of the workers at Vertical Harvest have physical or intellectual disabilities. Yahya, whose older brother is disabled, says every single employee, including Warner – who is autistic – is critical to keeping the vertical harvest working.

“We serve the least in our communities by simply giving them a chance and being able to give them something back,” Yahya explained.

Sean Stone says, “It’s hard to find a job for people with disabilities, who used to wash dishes at the city’s many rest restaurants before joining Vertical Harvest as a farmer.” I’m happy to help the community and give them fresh produce to cook.

Moving on from Wyoming

In July, Yehiya announced that Vertical Harvest would expand to serve another community. The new farm, located in Westbrook, Maine, will open in 2022 and will be five times larger than the original Wyoming greenhouse.

The goal is to increase production by 1 million per year for local restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals and schools.

Mayka Miller, a vertical harvest employee, has packets of lettuce greens to deliver to one of the four grocery store groves in Jackson, Wyoming.

“With Maine relocating and having a much larger space, we’re excited to play the role of providing the local production on an urban basis,” he says.

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Yehiya believes the global epidemic this year has forced consumers and communities across the country to find new ways to get new products from nearby sources.

“Covid focuses on what we know ten years ago when we took a look at this iconic model Dell: we have a central food system and that prevents us from getting a fresh, local, good taste,” Yahya said. “I think Covid-19 has forced people to ask why it is and now how they can get locally grown food during the summer and all year round. The vertical harvest is exactly that.”

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