Jackson Hole Vertical Harvest
by Vanessa Lord
What if “buying local” meant taking the subway a few city blocks over to your neighborhood high-rise farm? For several years, vertical farming has been the science and architecture world’s answer to global warming and population boom. Wealthy entrepreneurs and science magazines have been romanticizing a world where “farmscrapers” hold their own alongside towering corporate offices, producing food for the world’s urban dwelling population while standing smack dab in the middle of a bustling metropolis.
It sounds like something straight out of the Jetsons. But the Vertical Harvest project out of Jackson Hole, Wyoming plans to turn an old infill space into a vertical farm that is not only both green and technologically innovative, but also community-minded.
The proposed three-story urban greenhouse will grow organic produce using green technology like solar, wind, and methane. With it’s green technology and water recycling systems, the Vertical Harvest project promises to create more energy than it uses. It will benefit the community by offering a source of healthy local food all 365 days of the year and by providing jobs for people with developmental disabilities.
"The greenhouse will strive to use alternative energy sources, be a model of how other communities can grow their own produce on a small footprint of land while reinvigorating an underutilized parcel of land in the heart of town,” says Penny McBride, project administrator for Vertical Harvest of Jackson Hole.
If successful, Vertical Harvest of Jackson Hole can serve as a successful example of innovative vertical farming techniques that are not extractive to the community or to the environment.
Projections estimate that 80% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050. Meanwhile, the population itself will increase by 3 billion. Scientists worry that creating enough farmland to grow food to feed everyone under these circumstances is impossible. They have advanced the idea of vertical farming as a potential solution.
Proponents of vertical farming claim it will fix many of the problems inherent in traditional farming, such as crop failures due to natural disasters or parasites.
Moreover, vertical farming eliminates the need to transport food from rural to urban areas. Transporting food is expensive, leaves a significant carbon footprint, and vitamins and minerals are lost during the process. Let’s not forget some of the land previously used for farming can be given back to the ecosystem.
Since the project is currently in the “site, design, and engineering feasibility phase,” the ability to raise funds will be a deciding factor for its completion. In July alone Vertical Harvest received $20,000 grant from the 1% for the Tetons, and, after winning 4th place out of 275 applicants, received another $1,000 grant from America’s Green Grant.
Vertical Harvests of Jackson Hole resulted from the partnership of four community and environmentally minded organizations: Jackson Whole Grocer, a locally-owned natural food store, E/ye DESIGN, an architecture firm, Re:utilization, a local consulting firm, and CASE, the Center for Architecture, Science, and Ecology. These organizations are working with Slow Food in the Tetons and local groups that represent children and adults with developmental disabilities.