Monday, December 03, 2012

If this is December in Wyoming, it must be time for Kickstarter gardening projects

I grew a few herbs last summer. Rosemary, basil, oregano. They grew in a pot next to my gas grill, handy for throwing into marinade or tossing on the fire for some extra flavor. Most summers, I have tomatoes and squash and zucchini and broccoli and pole beans and Chinese pea pods and spinach and a variety of lettuces. My garden (and my roof and my car) got slammed by hail twice during the wet summer of 2011. Golf ball size. I was out there trying to shelter my plants, getting pounded by ice balls the entire time. Good thing I was wearing my lucky Broncos caps or my noggin would have been perforated.

So I went on a gardening hiatus during the summer of 2012. I plan to be back in the fray come spring of 2013. We high altitude gardeners are gluttons for punishment.

But there is hope for us. I came across the web sites of two new gardening projects located at opposite corners of Wyoming. Coincidentally (or inevitably) they both have active Kickstarter projects. The first touts the "Spring System" by Laramie's Bright Agrotech. It's a self-contained growing tower that addresses the need for portable gardening systems. This aids the growth rate of plants. It also allows you to fetch your veggies in out of ice storms with relative ease. Here's a description:
We designed a special production system based on our patented vertical towers that allows us to grow more produce using less space, and then transport the unharvested towers to market.  It allows us to sell "You-Pick" vegetables at the supermarket, letting the customers pick exactly how much they want.

Whenever we would talk about growing towers of greens or herbs or flowers, or when folks saw our towers at the supermarket, people would always ask when we would make a model for home use. This got us thinking:  What if we could take live towers directly to people’s homes - kind of like a "You-Pick" Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in your own kitchen? Or what if people could just grow their own produce, easier, and with less space than a garden?  What if people could do both?  The more I thought about it, the more I knew this product would help enable the kind of future I want to live in.  So, we decided to make a kit that allows folks to grow their own vegetables, or participate in live tower CSAs.

To start, we found some brilliant engineers, stayed up late, and designed a reservoir that would let us do all of the above, and most importantly, makes it simple and easy for people to do vertical farming in their own home, or on their patio, or wherever there’s room. 
Sounds good to me. To contribute, go here. It's a $20,000 project; Bright Agrotech is about 25 percent along the way. Why not kick in a few bucks. 

The second project comes to us from Jackson. The ski town has a parking garage that nobody parks in. Wyomingites would rather park in the street or on someone's front lawn. Its south side is just sitting around doing nothing, just gathering the warming rays on the sun of the mountain sun. 

Here's where Vertical Harvest comes in. The idea is to build a three-story greenhouse on the garage's south side. The greenhouse would grow veggies year-round, nurturing the caldera's many vegans and those of us who like to have some greens with our bloody meat. Tending the gardens would be special needs teens and adults. Organizers have held fund-raisers and have already got some money in the bank. Here's a bit more about the project:
Vertical Harvest will be the first of its kind: A three story vertical farm built on an infill piece of land that will grow fresh, local produce in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, extending its four month growing season to all year round. What makes this project truly unique is that we will develop an innovative hydroponic growing system that can be used in vertical greenhouses of all configurations. This innovative mechanism will maximize efficiency by dramatically increasing the amount of produce that can be grown in the greenhouse and will also use less energy to grow produce. In addition, this growing carousel is also specifically designed to provide a safe and meaningful work environment for adults with developmental disabilities, the employee base of Vertical Harvest. With this technology, Vertical Harvest will wrap agricultural, architectural and social innovation into one project that will be a critical milestone in urban agriculture. Go to
VH's Kickstarter goal is $30,000. The organizers just started today. Contribute here. Pledge $50 and get a "swanky Vertical Harvest T-shirt."

We have some creative people in this state. What's your big idea to help us all eat locally year-round?

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