Tucked in the northwest corner of Wyoming, the town of Jackson sits in an isolated valley circled by the rugged Tetons, Yellowstone National Park, and other protected wild lands. The setting draws climbers, skiers, and outdoor athletes who prefer a mountain-town lifestyle to urban conveniences. But when it’s time to buy new snow tires or find a couch for powder chasers to crash on, Jackson residents often must leave the valley, sometimes making the five-hour trek to Salt Lake City, Utah. The long haul cuts into recreation time, so people get used to solving problems on their own, drawing on the community and local initiative. The latest example: Vertical Harvest, a for-profit business with plans to build a three-story greenhouse and create jobs for the disabled in town.
In 2009, Caroline Croft was making routine calls around Jackson, Wyoming, seeking jobs for disabled citizens. Croft reached out to Penny McBride at local consulting firm re:utilization. McBride was looking into the idea of a biomass-heated greenhouse. She thought that creating jobs for the disabled in a year-round greenhouse could be a perfect match.
The conversation led to Vertical Harvest: a three-story, 13,500 square foot greenhouse, designed to supply locally grown produce year-round. Town government is behind it. Vertical Harvest will lease land three blocks from the Town Square at the generous rate of $1 per year. Vertical Harvest co-founder Nona Yehia, of Jackson’s E/Ye Design, is the architect, and Thomas Larssen, a greenhouse designer with experience in difficult climates such as Greenland, is also working on the project.
For now, Vertical Harvest is raising seed money for the operation. More than $150,000 of the initial $215,000 goal has been raised, and a grant from the Wyoming Business Council is expected to cover construction costs. If funding remains on track, the greenhouse could supply jobs for the disabled by early 2014 and produce food that summer—marking the beginning of fresh, local produce available year-round, despite Wyoming’s frigid winters. —Brigid Mander
Visit verticalharvest.org to learn more about the project or make a donation.