My path as the Founder of Vertical Harvest was based on a desire to bring food and jobs to my community. Long before Vertical Harvest was even a concept, my consulting work allowed me to gain an understanding about how urban greenhouses around the country were bringing value to their communities by not only producing food but also serving as a social networking platform. I learned about greenhouses that were training and providing new job resources for single women that had few work opportunities, greenhouses that were training ex-convicts, all inspiring and successful models. Providing food and employment in a secure environment seemed like a right, not a privilege.
The spark for connecting with employee’s with developmental disabilities came eight years ago when I received a call from a case manager looking for work opportunities for her clients, adults with developmental disabilities. I was moved to begin organizing community stakeholder meetings to discover whom in the community might be interested in partnering to build a greenhouse that could not only grow food but also serve those who might not be able to drive to work, those that had few employment options, those looking to expand their opportunities.
These stakeholder meetings proved to be insightful and energizing. Many were interested in the concept, including a local grocer that had toyed with the idea of a rooftop greenhouse on their store, educators, and families that wanted long-term job security for their family members with disabilities. This coalition was exciting for me because it spoke to what I believe that every community needs, locally produced food, local jobs, both adding to a more stable economy.
The road to where Vertical Harvest stands was long; pauses occurred along the way to gather essential community partners, investors, donors, trainers and trainee’s that would be our employee’s of today. There was no neat and tidy format for this process. It was impossible to know what would unfold, personalities and actions are not predictable, selling innovation can be challenging! Led by the hope that this dream would be a reality, perseverance ruled out, and Vertical Harvest became a reality. I would encourage all entrepreneurs out there to stick to your goals, seek out allies that are honest and encouraging, and always be honest with yourself and others about what is possible. You never know that will happen and trying is the only way to find out if your dream will become a reality!