Inspired and inspiring indoor farm & more in Denver’s Elyria-Swansea.
Urban food deserts don’t get much drier than Elyria-Swansea, a northeast Denver neighborhood whose lyrical name belies an impoverished, industrialized area. It is chopped up by railroad tracks and freeways with much marginal housing occupied primarily by Latinos with language, education and poverty hurdles that seem insurmountable. The most recent neighborhood improvement plan seems to date back to 1983. The GrowHaus is attempting to balance those inequities through fresh, nutritious food.
Did I mention that the nearest supermarket is 2 miles from 47th and York, where The GrowHaus is located? I’ve been intending to visit ever since I read about it back in 2009 when a couple of food activists and idealists came up with the concept for an indoor urban farm, community center and education venue in this sadly underserved neighborhood. Built on the premise that everyone deserves a healthy meal, this non-profit urban farm and education center has taken root in an abandoned 20,000-square-foot greenhouse for a community-driven, neighborhood-based food system including food production, food access, urban agriculture, education and even job training.
The Hydrofarm is a model of urban agricultural efficiency, using a hydroponic technique that employs a recirculating nutrient solution instead of soil to achieve fast, reliable yields of 5,000 plants at a time with harvests every one to two weeks — plus fish grown in a tank that is part of the recirculating hydroponic system. Some of the crops grown are distributed at an affordable price to Elyria-Swansea residents through corner stores and The GrowHaus’s own farmstand, while the remainder are high-value crops grown for top restaurants and such specialty markets as Marczyk Fine Foods.
Bit by bit, they are continuing to renovate more of their space to accommodate increased food production, educational facilities and a local food distribution network. The GrowHaus houses a commercial indoor hydrofarm that supplies fresh greens and herbs to some of Denver’s best restaurants. The small fresh food market is called Mercado de al Lado. GrowHaus also holds classes, offers food boxes priced on a sliding scale (low for neighbors, higher for those outside the ‘hood who can afford it), operates an annual seed exchange and hosts annual Harvest Week pop-up dinners. I wrote a post about the 2011 event. The 2014 dates are not yet available, but previous Harvest Weeks have been in late September.
The GrowHaus has a new partnership with the Urban Farm Company of Colorado, which designs and builds vegetable gardens for metro Denver residents, and also provides guidance throughout the season on how to maintain it for maximum yield. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may remember my post about it), and if you sign on with the Urban Farm Company mention The GrowHaus, they’ll donate 10 percent of the sales towards building gardens for low-income families in the Elyria-Swansea and Globeville neighborhoods.
Westword‘s Lori Midson delved into the complexity during an interview with co-founder Adam Brock.