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Community Spotlight: Laramie, Wyoming's downtown walls start conversation, grow food

  

October 4, 2017 | Community Spotlight | Laramie, Wyoming's downtown walls start conversation, grow food | by Laramie Main Street Alliance

Farm Wall

Photo credit: Plenty

Sitting just under 7,200 feet, Laramie, Wyoming’s brutal winters and a short growing season leave little opportunity for green space in the western railroad town. A collaborative effort launched in the spring between Laramie Main Street Alliance (LMSA) and vertical farming company, Plenty, took on this challenge, looking to blank downtown walls as a canvas for growing food, creating conversation and activating overlooked spaces.

“That’s so cool. How does that work? I want to do that!” Travel Inn owner Zack Kingsley recounts responses from hotel guests and visitors as they encounter the vertical farm towers below his “Welcome to Laramie” sign. Kingsley is one of four locally-owned business owners partnered with the collaborative project designed to bring awareness to the technology and brighten the landscape of Laramie’s historic downtown district.

Plenty approached LMSA in June with hopes to put Laramie on the map as the Farm Wall capital of the United States. The project left a mark in its first season using blank walls to create a destination for visitors and locals and establishing awareness for the company’s commitment to bring fresh, local, sustainably-grown, quality produce to people and communities.

“It is so fun to see people stop and check out the walls. Some take selfies, others take snacks,” LMSA Executive Director Trey Sherwood said. “A lot of folks wish they had one on their building or in their town.”

Vegetables and herbs flank buildings in the horizontal growing structures creating a public space for downtown wanderers to experience from the sidewalk. The trademarked soilless system allows for efficient, dense crops and an eye-catching green space.

“I think these guys have a great idea,” owner of Cross Country Connection and project participant Ken Cramer said. “Using space that’s not impacted negatively but serves a really useful purpose growing some fresh stuff that sometimes isn’t really available locally. All those things are really positive. I hope it’s just a success wherever they plug things in.” 

As Plenty rapidly expands, Outreach Operations Coordinator Travis Hines will grow the project nationally. Using the vertical farms modeled in downtown Laramie, Hines hopes to connect the company to the communities they work within while creating awareness and solving problems with sustainable farming.

“The walls, used as streetscape amenities, tactical urbanism or public art are community engagement assets at any level. They start conversations, solve problems and encourage collaborations,” Sherwood said. “The Farm Walls allow us to dream beyond what currently exists on our streets and help us to see our communities for what they can be at their fullest potential.”

More information on the project can be found at farmwall.co/.


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