Hard times have fallen on coal mining communities across the country, as widespread layoffs sweep the industry, leaving many families unable to afford healthy food. This epidemic inspired one farmer in McDowell County, West Virginia to come up with an innovative way to feed his community using limited real estate.
Joel McKinney, a resident of one of the state's most struggling areas, built his own small-scale farm in the parking lot of a local food bank, using a vertical method to grow produce. McKinney utilizes 18 white towers and a method called hydroponics, through which plant roots are flooded with nutrients using a water blend– nurturing vegetables without soil.
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"Right here I can grow 44 plants, whereas somebody growing in the ground can only grow four," McKinney tells NPR of the futuristic farming method currently being used by forward-thinking farmers from the heart of Indiana to the MIT campus.