“Bringing the farm again to town heart can have loads of advantages,” says Nona Yehia, CEO of Vertical Harvest, an organization that can quickly break floor on a brand new constructing in Westbrook, Maine, that mixes a vertical farm with affordable housing. Comparable developments will comply with in Chicago and in Philadelphia, the place a farm-plus-housing will likely be constructed within the Tioga District, a possibility zone.
“I feel what we’ve actually understood prior to now yr and a half—though we’ve been rooted in all of it alongside—is that we’ve got on this nation converging financial, local weather, and well being crises which are rooted in folks’s entry to wholesome meals, resilient, nourishing jobs, and truthful housing,” Yehia says. “And we noticed this as an city redevelopment instrument that has the potential to deal with all three.”
The corporate launched in 2015 on a vacant lot in Jackson, Wyoming, aiming partially to create jobs for folks with bodily and developmental disabilities within the space. In 2019, it received a grant from Fannie Mae to discover how its greenhouses might assist with the problem of meals safety and diet, learning how a farm could possibly be built-in into an current affordable housing growth in Chicago as a mannequin for brand new initiatives.
Now, because it strikes ahead with the Chicago challenge and expands to different cities, it would additionally create new jobs for individuals who may need in any other case had problem discovering work, working with native stakeholders to establish underserved populations. “A part of that is offering wholesome, nutritious meals,” Yehia says, “but in addition jobs at livable wages. We’re positioning all of our corporations to deal with the brand new minimal wage degree of $15 an hour with a path in direction of profession growth.”
Inside every constructing, the bottom degree will provide neighborhood entry, whereas the greenhouse fills the second, third, and fourth flooring, protecting 70,000 sq. toes and rising round one million kilos of produce a yr. (The quantity of housing varies by web site; in Maine, there will likely be solely 15 items of housing, although the challenge will create 50 new jobs.) In Chicago, there could also be a neighborhood kitchen on the primary degree. In every location, residents will be capable to purchase recent produce on-site; Vertical Harvest additionally plans to let others within the neighborhood purchase greens immediately from the farm. Whereas it would promote to supermarkets, eating places, hospitals, and different giant clients, it additionally plans to subsidize 10-15% of its harvest for native meals pantries and different neighborhood organizations. “By making a large-scale farm in a meals desert we’re creating a big supply of wholesome, regionally grown meals twelve months a yr,” she says.