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Seeds of change: A circle of sustainability thrives at the GrowHaus

Update: Progress is being made at the GrowHaus, as evidenced by this time-lapse of renovations in the facility's HydroFarm. But in the urban greenhouse's race to win a $50,000 grant, the road's been a bit bumpier: After rising to third place and even grazing second, GrowHaus has dropped to sixth place in the tight competition between ten nationwide community projects for Maxwell House's Drops of Good giveaway. Only the top five finishers get the money. So, hey, Denver: What's up with that? The deadline is June 17, so get your vote on. You can vote once a day. And for more about GrowHaus, read on:

In 2009, developer Paul Tamburello and community "artivist" Ashara Ekundayo teamed up to open the GrowHaus in a long empty former Lehrer's Flowers facility on the edge of Swansea, one of Denver's poorest neighborhoods. The idea behind the GrowHaus was -- and is -- a lofty one: To support the surrounding community by providing local food, growing space and urban gardening education to the area's denizens, who live in what GrowHaus operations director Adam Brock calls a "food desert."

It's an apt phrase to describe a place where there are no real food markets for miles.

Welcome to the GrowHaus!
Welcome to the GrowHaus!

Since then, the GrowHaus has slowly come along, building working hydroponic demonstration gardens where fish are raised in water recycling tanks that feed crops in the flats above them. I recently took a guided tour, during which Brock showed off a tank swimming with healthy white tilapia destined for such local restaurants as the pay-what-you-can SAME Cafe, which also buys baby salad greens grown under the Growhaus roof.

Inside the GrowHaus.
Inside the GrowHaus.

"Some of these guys look like they're ready to harvest," notes Brock of the roiling school in the tank. He's clearly proud of the little Eden he's helped create, but on the rest of the tour, he reveals how much is still left to be done.

Tilapia feed an aquaponic garden.
Tilapia feed an aquaponic garden.

Trays of baby greens bask in the GrowHaus.
Trays of baby greens bask in the GrowHaus.

GrowHaus hopes to be selling fresh produce and other local goods from other distributors to the neighborhood from an outdoor stand later this summer, and the facility's total plan for growth is still in the works, with thousands of square feet still either empty or in the early stages of development. And the bottom line for GrowHaus is this: That two-fold plan, which aims to grow both the fund-raising Hydrofarm and the community-driven Growasis demonstration farm, will cost a lot of money.

The first stages of a sustainable heating/cooling system for the second phase.
The first stages of a sustainable heating/cooling system for the second phase.

Moolah doesn't grow in aquaponic beds, and that's why GrowHaus threw its hat into the ring to enter the Maxwell House Drops of Good Contest, a national competition using online voting to determine five winning community-building centers, each of which will be awarded a $50,000 grant. GrowHaus won one of the ten slots on the strength of this plea:

Convinced? Help the GrowHaus grow by casting your vote; you can vote once daily, through June 17. Spread the word!

Seeds of change: A circle of sustainability thrives at the GrowHaus

In the meantime, GrowHaus, located at 4751 York Street, offers weekly tours on Fridays at 10 a.m.; admission is a $5 donation.

Francis Meru, an urban farmer and community activist from Nairobi, Kenya, working at GrowHaus as part of a Bold Food Fellowship exchange program.
Francis Meru, an urban farmer and community activist from Nairobi, Kenya, working at GrowHaus as part of a Bold Food Fellowship exchange program.

César Chávez graces this mural by Joshua Mays on the west side of GrowHaus.
César Chávez graces this mural by Joshua Mays on the west side of GrowHaus.

And Tracy Weil, who rents space in the Growhaus to grow his Heirloom Tomato Farms seedlings, painted this mural inside.
And Tracy Weil, who rents space in the Growhaus to grow his Heirloom Tomato Farms seedlings, painted this mural inside.

For more information visit the website.

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