Inside the city limits of some Goshen County communities, a new type of farm is popping up.
Farm Walls are a vertical growing system that allows for the growth of produce without the need for soil. Earlier this year, the Wyoming Business Council announced that grant funding was available for communities interested in adding farm walls to their community.
“The Farm Wall Grants are funded through the United States Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop grant,” Sandy Hoehn, community development director with Goshen County Economic Development and Chamber, said.
Hoehn said the funds are administered by the Wyoming Department of Agriculture. In February, Hoehn wrote a grant requesting Farm Wall funds. The original intent was to use them as part of Goshen County’s Main Street initiative.
The Wyoming Business Council awarded a total of 13 grants in seven communities, with Goshen County receiving approval for four walls at the cost of $600 each. GCEDC decided to cover half of the cost, so communities would only be responsible for $300.
“We chose to pay for half of all walls for any community that wanted one because this is a crazy time and everyone is going through budget cuts including us,” she said. “If we can help a community or businesses out, we explore all options to make it possible.”
The walls are part of ongoing beautification efforts throughout the country as part of its Main Street initiative. Other steps have been taken from public art to façade improvement. Flower pots and vibrant flags are also displayed in communities, said Hoehn.
She explained that beautification is important because, to put it simply, people like to spend time in pretty places.
“Consumers prefer to shop in pretty places, and pretty places increase the value of our businesses products,” she said. “Downtown beautification drives tourism, increases community engagement, provides an opportunity to show community pride, and ultimately, increases the economic impact.”
Hoehn pointed to best practices outlined by the National Main Street program which include information that says thriving beautification programs lead communities to see an average increase in business sales of nearly 30 percent across the board.
Beyond the potential economic impact, the Farm Walls will benefit Goshen County communities in other ways. The produce on the walls will go to local food insecurity efforts, helping members of the community gain more access to things like fresh vegetables and herbs.
The walls will provide an educational opportunity as well.
“It’s always great to use every teaching moment that life throws your way,” Hoehn said. “In GCEDC’s strategic plan, we want to be able to provide educational opportunities with cross generational workforce.”
Since Goshen County is rooted in agriculture, Hoehn feels the walls are going to be a great learning tool for local students. She said GCEDC is currently working with Goshen County Extension to bring Goshen County Wyoming Master Gardeners into classrooms, where they will teach students how to grow seedlings. The plants will later be moved to the walls.
Initially, the plan was to use the walls to beautify Main Streets in Goshen County communities, but when they learned more about what the walls would require, the decision was made to let communities choose the location of their wall.
“The walls needed to get a certain amount of sunlight, be close to an outlet and needed to be able to be reached with a hose for refilling,” Hoehn said.
The City of Torrington purchased two of the walls. One is located in front of the annex building at the Goshen County Senior Friendship Center. Another is in front of the city building, and the city is in the process of making their wall portable so it can be moved inside during the winter to allow for growing year round.
In Lingle, the Community Presbyterian Church will be home to a farm wall. They are currently figuring out the best way to share produce with residents of Lingle and other communities in Goshen County.
A wall will also be placed near the community center in Fort Laramie, which also houses a community garden. Last year, Planting Roots Preschool grew flowers in planters around town. Next year, they will help grow produce on the wall.
Communities were able to select what they wanted to grow, said Hoehn. The walls were designed and installed by Bio-Logic Designs, LLC and community cultivation project coordinator Travis Himes helped them determine what would work best.
Hoehn said she is excited about what the farm walls will bring to the community.
“This was one of the most amazing projects I have been a part of,” she said.
Kamie Stephen is a reporter with the Star-Herald. She can be reached at 308-632-9041 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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