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It's hard to grow vegetables in this mountain town. Then this farmer had an idea

September 14, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Founded in 2016, Vertical Harvest is a vertical farm in that grows fresh produce for local restaurants and employs disabled workers in Jackson, Wyoming.

"Ty is our tomato guy," said Nona Yehia, co-founder and CEO of Vertical Harvest, an innovative three-story greenhouse in downtown Jackson, Wyoming.

Operating an indoor farm in the snowy northwest corner of Wyoming wasn't exactly the job Yehia had envisioned for herself years ago.

In 2008, after the New York City-based architect moved to Jackson to start a new firm, Yehia wanted to try something innovative in her new community.

"We came together to look for an out-of-the-box solution and that's where the idea to go up came from," Yehia said.

In the spring of 2016, Vertical Harvest began growing its first lettuce, microgreens, and tomato plants.

The farm's current staff of 40 now grows year-round, and cultivates the amount of produce equivalent to ten acres of traditional outdoor farming.

Yehia says all of the produce grown is distributed to 40 local restaurants and four grocery stores.

While planning for a new greenhouse, Yehia and her design team realized they had to do more with the project than just grow fresh greens for locals.

Yehia, whose older brother is disabled, says every single employee, including Warner -- who is autistic -- is critical to keeping Vertical Harvest functioning.

"It's hard for people with disabilities to find a job," says Sean Stone, who used to wash dishes at several restaurants in town before joining Vertical Harvest as a farmer.

In July, Yehia announced Vertical Harvest would be expanding to serve a second community.

The goal is to grow a million pounds of produce each year for local restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals, and schools.

Yehia believes the global pandemic this year has forced consumers and communities around the country to explore new ways to get fresher produce from closer sources.

"Covid has shined a spotlight on what we knew ten years ago when we were looking at this vertical model: We have a centralized food system and it's kept us from getting fresh, local, good-tasting food," Yehia said.

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