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!
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.
"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.

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