The Garden Bloggers Fling 2019 kicked off with a welcome dinner and tour at GrowHaus, a non-profit indoor farm, marketplace and educational complex in Denver’s Elyria-Swansea neighborhood.
GrowHaus makes its home in a renovated 20,000 square foot historic greenhouse on a neighborhood street.
Lovely tables were set for us. The leafy pergola at the far end of this large room is a very large bearing fig tree, supported partially by overhead piping and partially by a couple of huge potted banana trees.
Large diameter black corrugated pipe sent on edge provides soil depth to support plant growth while using vertical space to its best advantage. This one is planted with hops.
We’re welcomed by one of this year’s organizers who introduces her committee and recognizes first time Fling attendees–20 this year. Emily Hoel, GrowHaus Director of Operations, is introduced and gives us a bit of the organization’s history. I’ve added to her presentation with facts from their website because I believe they are doing such important work in this economically challenged part of Denver. The Elyria-Swansea area was established around 1880 as a working class neighborhood and has historically lacked access to fresh food as, even today, they have no grocery store within a 2 mile radius. It has the lowest household incomes in the state of Colorado and faces the challenges which come with the lack of money and nutritious food. The vision of GrowHaus is “a world where all communities have the means to nourish themselves.” Their mission is to create “a community-driven, neighborhood-based food system by serving as a hub for food distribution, production, education and economic opportunities.”
They have a three pronged approach to achieving their mission: direct marketing of food; a full schedule of educational classes and opportunities for youth and adults focusing on nutrition, food production and preparation; and production of food in a sustainable indoor setting .
The Market Next Door offers fresh fruits and vegetables plus a selection of processed foods. Proceeds from the organization’s 3 production farms’ sales to local restaurant and grocery stores are used to stock the market with products not grown or produced on site.
In addition to classes, educational opportunities abound in the ongoing endeavors of GrowHaus. Here you see a worm farm, complete with hanging spade, made by neighborhood participants.
And what, you ask, does this pile of bikes have to do with food security? Each summer, teens from GrowHaus fan out through their own neighborhood to construct raised beds for residents to grow veggies and they use these bikes for transportation.
The food production component of GrowHaus is divided into three farms: aquaponics, hydroponics and mushroom cultivation. Please note we were not able to enter the hydroponic growing area and thus these photos were taken through the glass. The walls of the large aquaponic growing area were semi-opaque–no photos from there possible.
Hydroponics and aquaponics are both soil-free methods of cultivating crops. The major difference between the two methods is that aquaponics integrates a hydroponic environment with aquaculture, the process of cultivating fish. It’s all in the fish!
This little demo set-up with its planting space and small fish tank is a small scale example of an aquaponic system.
The catch of the day board lets visitors know what fresh fish are available for sale.
A fellow blogger trying to get a shot next to me commented that she was “going for a moody ambiance.” A small window, sweaty with humidity, was the only peek available of the mushroom operation, in full swing since 2015.
I don’t know that we could have found the ‘shrooms without the sign!
We closed our evening with drawings for great products donated by Fling sponsors, including a whole box of stylish hats from Austin-based Tula.
Throughout the GrowHaus there are positive affirmations about community and neighborhood. Most off them hand lettered just like this one. The work of children’s hands is seen everywhere and this is clearly a safe and welcoming environment in which a place is found for anyone who wants to take part, make a contribution, and help shape the future of their neighborhood. My own city, despite being in a valley of agricultural wealth, ranks very high amongst the nation’s cities with massive pockets of poverty. I can’t help but think that we must have the resources to establish neighborhood centers similar to GrowHaus and must only be lacking the will.
Please go to http://www.growhaus.org to find out more about the outreach and programs (or to offer support) of this community based indoor farm.