In June, GrowHaus won Maxwell House's Drops of Good contest and $50,000, which it's using to build a state-of-the-art hydroponic farm and create a market space.
Yesterday, that space was celebrated with a group of volunteers, GrowHaus board members, Maxwell House and Rebuilding Together reps (with marquee volunteer Bronco Mark Schlereth) and community members.
Among GrowHaus's goals is providing healthy food at reasonable prices to residents of the surrounding Elyria-Swansea community, who live in a food desert. The organization provides community garden space where neighbors can grow their own vegetables, and is setting up a market where produce from other parts of the farm will be sold. The HydroFarm will be for commercial production, which will bring in revenue so that GrowHaus can be self-sustaining.
GrowHaus produce is currently being sold to SAME Cafe, the restaurant on East Colfax which allows diners to eat on a pay-what-you-wish basis; the group also helps supply Linger and Root Down. Once the GrowHaus lettuce starts growing, it will be sold in area Whole Foods stores through Circle Fresh Farms, a co-operative of eight growing facilities on the Front Range.
A few finishing touches still need to be done: The market is missing counters, for example, and the hydroponic farm will get a few more rows of the soil-free rowing system. However, the basics of the organic (though not-yet-certified) greenhouse facility are all in place.
Once it's complete in a month or so, the 5,000 square foot HydroFarm will be the largest organic, soilless lettuce facility of its kind in North America. New Growing System technology allows organic fertilizers, which have not been an option for hydroponic farms before. Lettuce grown in the system will reach maturity three times faster than through conventional methods, and the space will be four times more productive. The system uses about a tenth of the water needed for conventional farming and will operate year-around. Herbs and other greens such as spinach will also be grown in the space.
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Hundreds of volunteers, many of whom got involved through Rebuilding Together, helped make GrowHaus make the transformation from an empty, former flower-distribution warehouse space to an operational farm.