The GrowHaus: Building A Community Around Food In Elyria-Swansea

"What I really see here is a hub for community development, a place where we support and inspire the neighborhood," says Adam Brock, of Northeast Denver's GrowHaus.

Brock, along with his long-time friend and fellow Denver native Coby Gould, helped open the Growhaus--an urban farm and marketplace in the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood--to increase the accessibility and affordability of fresh, healthy food in an area that has been labeled a "food desert."

The GrowHaus, located in an old warehouse at 47th and York, grows various vegetables, and even raises fish, which provide nutrients for plants in a precess called aquaponics. The food is then distributed and sold in Elyria-Swansea.

However, providing fresh local produce is only half the story, say Brock and Gould. The ultimate goal is to create a self-sustaining community center where residents take an active role in producing and selling their food.

"It's about us building a foundation for an institution that residents can build on," says Gould, who says he'd be happy if the organization took off without he an Brock spearheading the effort.

To keep the community engaged, the GrowHaus hosts classes in urban agriculture, keeps community plots for locals to try their hand at urban agriculture, and throws parties and community gatherings.

Brock says he considers the project to be "at least as much community as it is about food."

Both Brock and Gould have long shated a deep sense of the importance of food.

Gould's connection stems from his mother, who opened a catering company in Denver geared toward homeless individuals. His work with his mother opened his eyes to the cultural importance of food in a community, and its potential to empower people.

Brock, who studied sustainability and permaculture (the idea of modeling businesses and communities after natural ecosystems) at New York University, says he sees urban agriculture as being "at the hub of everything from climate change to social justice to public health."

Their commitment to the societal and environmental importance of food is what led them to join the GrowHaus project, which was originally conceived by developer Paul Tamburello and activist Ashara Ekundayo in 2009.

Grants from organizations like Denver's Office of Economic Development and Kaiser Permanente have kept the GrowHaus afloat while the organization builds out its growing facilities. Ultimately, the plan is to fund the GrowHaus primarily by selling produce grown in-house.

In the mean-time, Brock and Gould continue to plan more community outreach events, including a Worm Composting Workshop on February 19, a Food Justice Workshop on February 26, and a Seed Swap and Planting Celebration on March 5.