Some vertical farms grow greens in old warehouses , former steel mills , or other sites set apart from the heart of cities. But a new series of projects will build multistory greenhouses directly inside affordable housing developments.
"Bringing the farm back to the city center can have a lot of benefits," says Nona Yehia, CEO of Vertical Harvest , a company that will soon break ground on a new building in Westbrook, Maine, that combines a vertical farm with affordable housing. Similar developments will follow in Chicago and in Philadelphia, where a farm-plus-housing will be built in the Tioga District, an opportunity zone.
vacant lot in Jackson, Wyoming , aiming in part to create jobs for people with physical and developmental disabilities in the area. In 2019, it got a contract from Fannie Mae to explore how its greenhouses could help with the challenge of food security and nutrition, studying how a farm could be integrated into an existing affordable housing development in Chicago as a model for new projects.
Now, as it moves forward with the Chicago project and expands to other cities, it will also create new jobs for people who might have otherwise had difficulty finding work, working with local stakeholders to identify underserved populations. "Part of this is providing healthy, nutritious food," Yehia says, "but also jobs at livable wages. We're positioning all of our firms to address the new minimum wage level of $15 an hour with a path towards career development."
Correction : We've updated this article to note that the project in Maine has 50 units of housing, not 15, and the company received a contract—not a grant—from Fannie Mae.
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