Grist Feature



Grist | By Claire Elise Thompson

Nona Yehia is CEO and cofounder of Vertical Harvest, a company in Jackson, Wyoming, that cranks out roughly 100,000 pounds of produce each year in a three-story, state-of-the-art, hydroponic greenhouse. Bumble Bee tomatoes, rainbow chard, butterhead lettuce — the company’s 34 employees generate as much bounty as a 10-acre traditional farm while using only one tenth of an acre of land.

And there’s something else: Many of those employees have developmental disabilities. Including this underserved population in such an innovative endeavor “is about empowerment,” Yehia says. “It’s about exposing ability.”

We caught up with Yehia (who, along with cofounder Penny McBride, was featured on Grist’s annual list of “Fixers” in 2016) to talk about a new documentary that follows the “tumultuous” first 15 months of Vertical Harvest’s endeavor, and the company’s journey in the years since it was filmed.