What’s the best possible use of a vacant lot? Besides a tiny house, of course. A vertical farm!
Now, this is not an obvious answer, especially not in Jackson, Wyoming, where tourists swoop in and out like birds and a vacant lot can go for $1 million. But it is a potentially exciting one.
the town is about to become home to one of the only vertical farms in the world. On a thin slice of vacant land next to a parking lot, a startup called Vertical Harvest recently broke ground on a new three-story stack of greenhouses that will be filled with crops like microgreens and tomatoes.
“We’re replacing food that was being grown in Mexico or California and shipped in,” explains Penny McBride, one of the co-founders. “We feel like the community’s really ready for a project like this. Everybody’s so much more aware of the need to reduce transportation, and people like to know their farmer and where food’s coming from.”
The small plot of land is owned by the town, and the building that houses the farm will be owned by the town as well, as part of a partnership. The founders spent five years working with the city to fully vet the idea—from how well the business model can support itself to how the efficient the new building will be.
This aggrieved response, in Salon, to the NYT magazine piece about Portland — why people move there, what they do then, and how the city is changing — makes some sobering points about how our culture views freelance work and the money that results.
In 2013 my husband had a salaried position and did some freelance work — freelance work he has been doing for the past 10 years — on the side. In 2014 he quit the salaried job to pursue freelance full-time and is making roughly three times what he used to. Had he left that salaried job for another, we’d have no problem. We’d produce his last two pay stubs and even though it was a new job his work history would demonstrate some indelible quality about him and we’d have our mortgage.
But it doesn’t work like that for freelancers. The invoices we send out every month, the checks we deposit, the estimated taxes we’ve already paid — none of it really means anything until we file our tax return. Freelance money, we’ve come to realize, isn’t like other money. At a time in our economy when a salaried worker can lose his job without warning and then be unemployed for months, if not years, he’s still seen as a safer bet than a freelancer. Our money doesn’t count, and neither do our jobs. This is cultural, I understand, and there are countless ways — from healthcare to the tax code — that our culture is set up to favor salaried workers.
No one who reads this site could mistake freelancers for slackers. But it’s true that when Ben and I both jumped off the freelance cliff, we didn’t consider the long-term ramifications in terms of things like mortgages. (Move somewhere significantly cheaper and buy in cash?) Anyone have experience convincing banks to lend to you as something other than a FT employee?
In 2012, Jenn Woodward and Gary A. Hanson started a papermaking studio. Based out of Portland, Ore., Pulp and Deckle manufactures paper and gives workshops and classes about the process. Recently, I had an opportunity to chat with Jenn about her studio.
In a paperless world, you’re making paper. What was the impetus to start such a business? A lot if it came from living here in Portland. There’s a vibrant small business culture, and there’s such an emphasis on “green.” The types of papermaking we’re doing (recycled paper, plant-based paper) is a slow, sustainable art form.
For me, a major part of the appeal is having a connection to how something is made. It transforms your understanding of it. When you go to the farmers market, or go to a woodworker’s furniture store, you’re voting with your dollars to say you want to connect with your food or your furnishings on a deeper level. You want to know who planted it, who carved it, etc. That’s what we’re all about.
I think papermaking is kind of magical. It’s one of those art forms that not many know about. I like showing people that something they take for granted in their everyday environment can be special and imbibed with meaning, beauty and purpose.
How’d you get into papermaking in the first place? I first learned about papermaking while getting my MFA at the Museum School in Boston. I was doing a lot of drawing and mixed media work and got interested in making my own surfaces to work on. I got really into making onionskin papyrus…