Award-Winning Documentary Guides Conversation About Growing Plants, Community and Inclusion

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“Hearts of Glass” will be available to the UGA community for viewing through Oct. 30. A free and interactive discussion will be held at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27, on Zoom.

By Sean Montgomery for UGA CAES News

The University of Georgia (UGA) Department of Horticulture, together with UGA’s Institute on Human Development and Disability, Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Program, Office of Sustainability, Sustainable Food Systems Initiative, and UGArden, are excited to stream the award-winning “Hearts of Glass” documentary for the university community beginning today, Oct. 23.

“Hearts of Glass” gives an in-depth look inside Vertical Harvest, a Jackson, Wyoming, agribusiness that facilitates high-quality food production while providing employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. As a high-tech urban farm, the organization’s goal is to supply valuable resources to communities and families that struggle with food insecurity by growing and distributing organic, affordable and nutritious options.

“It is hard not to be engaged by the story told in “Hearts of Glass.” A business operation that uses the latest technology to grow plants and food in a greenhouse, at a location where it would be impossible to grow food outdoors for more than a few months a year, is per se a fascinating story,” said Leo Lombardini, head of the Department of Horticulture in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

“Vertical Harvest is a perfect example of how determination, social responsibility, horticulture and local food production can be all achieved successfully to make this world a better place. We have known for a long time that plants have the power to heal our souls, but it is examples like these that prove that plants can also become elements for inclusion and unprecedented opportunities.” 

The university community is welcome to stream the film between today, Oct. 23, and Friday, Oct. 30, at showandtell.film/watch/uga. In addition to the film showing, a free and interactive discussion with the filmmaker, Vertical Harvest employees, and Clarke County School District and UGA faculty will be held virtually at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27, to include:

  • Jennifer Tennican, director and producer of “Hearts of Glass”
  • Sean Stone, senior facilities associate, Vertical Harvest
  • Kai Hoffman, senior grower of vining crops, Vertical Harvest 
  • Jennifer Thomas, special education teacher at Clarke County School District

The panel will be moderated by Jennifer Jo Thompson, associate research scientist and director of the UGA Sustainable Food Systems Initiative.

“Bringing the film to the UGA community allows Vertical Harvest to see how others are reacting to their story, business model and social impact goals,” said Jennifer Tennican, director and producer of the documentary. “The enterprise is ambitious and has demanded intense commitment over many years, so I anticipate that the reactions from UGA viewers will be affirming and energizing.”

Register for the discussion at zoom.us.

About the moderator: Jennifer Jo Thompson, associate research scientist and director of UGA’s Sustainable Food Systems Initiative

Thompson is an engaged anthropologist and leads the Social Sustainability of Agriculture and Food Systems Lab in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. Her research emphasizes transdisciplinary collaboration, human and environmental health, and social justice in agriculture and food systems.

About the panelists:

Jennifer Tennican, director and producer of “Hearts of Glass”

Tennican began her documentary career in the late 1990s working on NOVA science programs for Boston’s PBS station with independent producers in the Boston area. Since moving to Wyoming in 2002, she has focused on local storytelling. Her films explore identity, inclusion and community and, although they are rooted in Jackson Hole, they resonate far beyond the mountain west. Tennican’s award-winning work including “Hearts of Glass” and “The Stagecoach Bar: An American Crossroads,” and “Far Afield: A Conservation Love Story,” which have been featured in numerous film festivals and aired on PBS.

Sean Stone, senior facilities associate at Vertical Harvest

Stone was born and raised in Pocatello, Idaho. After graduating from high school, he moved to Jackson, Wyoming, and held various jobs within the community before joining Vertical Harvest when it launched in 2016. As a senior associate, he helps run and maintain greenhouse operations.

Kai Hoffman, senior grower of vining crops at Vertical Harvest

Growing up in Flagstaff, Arizona, Hoffman is passionate about the outdoors and gardening. He studied hydroponics at the University of Arizona and quickly began to pursue a career in the plant industry, joining Vertical Harvest in November 2016 with a focus on tomatoes and sustainable food growth.

Jennifer Thomas, special education teacher at Clarke County School District

From Nashville, Tennessee, Thomas is an adapted curriculum instructor and green school coordinator at Clarke Middle School. In 2019, she was a garden champion awardee, celebrated as the Outstanding Middle School Teacher for helping to make farm-to-school and garden-based learning a success in Athens-Clarke County.

For more information about the film and panel event, visit showandtell.film/watch/uga.