Tour a Social Enterprise during Summit15: GrowHaus in Denver
The GrowHaus is a nonprofit indoor farm, marketplace and educational center in Denver’s Elyria-Swansea neighborhood, a historic working-class community established in the 1880s. For most of its history, Elyria-Swansea has been surrounded by manufacturing and transportation infrastructure. The area is home to many recent immigrants, has one of the lowest household incomes in the city and also experiences a lack of access to healthy, affordable food.
The GrowHaus tackles these problems in a numbers of ways through its food production, distribution and education programs, in addition to capacity building. Participants at this year’s Summit15 will have the chance to tour The GrowHaus—to learn more about the organization and to see firsthand how the nonprofit brings in streams of earned income through each of its programs.
We had the opportunity to interview Kayla Birdsong, the Director of Operations at The GrowHaus, to learn more about the social enterprise scene in Denver, the great work The GrowHaus is involved in and what participants can expect to see during the Urban Agriculture tour—part of the Summit15 experience.
Why are you excited to see Summit15 in Denver this year?
Birdsong — Personally, what excites me about Denver is the spirit of innovation, creativity and fearlessness. There are so many organizations across the country and world that are doing great things, but I see people and organizations here in Denver pushing the limits and being supportive of others doing so as well. Denver is a great place to visit, because it is constantly innovating and improving upon what is already being done.
What can participants expect to see or experience during their tour of The GrowHaus?
Birdsong — The GrowHaus is a vibrant and creative space housed in a 20,000 square-foot historic greenhouse. Touring the facility, participants will have the opportunity to see and learn more about a variety of activities, including our food production, distribution and education programs. Located at the entrance or the building is The GrowHaus’ community market, where sliding scale pricing is used to discount prices for local residents. The tour also offers the opportunity to view our hydroponics, aquaponics and growasis permaculture farms, in addition to our mushroom farm, three beehives and much more. You’ll also see our kitchen, where a cooking class is usually in the works.
What is it that makes The GrowHaus unique?
Birdsong — Two things make The GrowHaus unique. The first is that we truly strive to be community driven. It is difficult, but every decision we make is vetted through the community and how we impact the community. For example, we generally do not add programs unless the community requests them.
Also, we are unique in the way we think about money. While we are grant funded as well, we have streams of earned income across all of our programming. With food distribution, we earn money through the food box program. We also earn money through some of our food education activities and through food production. We then use these funds to run our programs for the community.
What do you see as the main obstacles and opportunities for social entrepreneurs?
Birdsong — One of the biggest opportunities and challenges for social entrepreneurs is the ability to authentically engage the community. Engaging the community at large and removing feelings of separation can be challenging, but it is absolutely possible and necessary. When organizations are truly community-based, they are listening to and observing the needs of the community before letting their own ideas come into play.
Written by Anna Upchurch from the fabulous team at JVA Consulting.