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Earlier this month, around a thousand Denverites descended upon the GrowHaus for Harvest Week, a culinary extravaganza presented by EatDenver (a nonprofit that advocates for independent local restaurants). Everyone was there to celebrate the bounty of local farms and the fantastic cooking of Colorado chefs, but attendees were also there to learn more about—and to support—the mission of the GrowHaus, a non-profit indoor farm that provides fresh food, education, and a marketplace for residents of the underserved Elyria-Swansea and Globeville neighborhoods.
Adam Brock, Ashara Ekundayo, Coby Gould, Paul Tamburello, and Kendra Sandoval founded the GrowHaus in 2009. Their mission was to work with the community to create a center for food production and economic opportunity—especially important in these north Denver neighborhoods, which are some of the most polluted in the country where residents don’t have much access to healthy foods. Now, the GrowHaus functions as an all-around community food center: It grows produce, including lettuce and mushrooms, on-site; it’s home to a grocery store where items are priced on a sliding scale to ensure everyone can afford to shop there; and it sells food box subscriptions (a weekly CSA-style box including produce, eggs, and bread) to all Denver residents. The GrowHaus also provides gardening- and cooking-related after-school educational programs for children and hosts a variety of public events, like the aformentioned Harvest Week.
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Kayla Birdsong, the executive director of the GrowHaus, emphasizes that the Growhaus’ success comes from being resident-driven. The staff develops ideas with community members to better provide for them. “It’s this continual feedback process where we’re learning from our successes and also from our mistakes, continually adapting our offerings and our approach to really be able to make a difference,” Birdsong says. One such example is the GrowHaus’ no-cost grocery program, which now provides around 70 families with free food every week, as well as offering gratis cooking classes.
The GrowHaus has much more in store in the coming years. Its new farm apprenticeship program gives community members the chance to learn hard skills at all three of the GrowHaus’ indoor farms. It’s also working on the implementation of a mobile grocery store, which would deliver fresh foods via bus straight to peoples’ homes.
The GrowHaus isn’t yet done growing physically, either. The crew recently started renovating the last greenhouse in its facility, which, at around 100 years old, is one of the oldest such structures in the state. This new section of the greenhouse will be dedicated to education; all of the food grown there will be used to demonstrate growing stages in hands-on classes.
When I asked Birdsong how Denverites can get involved at the GrowHaus, her answer was simple: Just come for a visit. With twice-weekly tours on Fridays and Saturdays and a monthly happy hour event, there are ample opportunities to pop in. Birdsong hopes that by visiting, people will think about where their food is coming from—and how their charitable donations can help. “The more that we can look locally and keep our dollars here in the city and in the state, I think it supports everyone we care about in our community,” she says.
If you go: Free weekly tours are held at 10 a.m. every Friday and Saturday. Upcoming events include a mycology lab skills workshop (November 6) and a pickling workshop with the Real Dill (November 10); find more details on the GrowHaus’ website.
4751 York Street, Denver, 720-515-4751