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The Story Behind the Site: Kayla Birdsong, Executive Director of The GrowHaus

The Story Behind the Site: Kayla Birdsong, Executive Director of The GrowHaus

The GrowHaus is a nonprofit, indoor farm dedicated to creating a community-focused, neighborhood-based food system that has built its online home on Squarespace. By growing fresh produce year round, distributing it to community members, and offering educational programming on healthy eating, The GrowHaus aims to tip the balance of food injustice and create a world where nourishing food is accessible to everyone.

Kayla Birdsong, Executive Director of The GrowHaus, has been integral to the stability and development of the organization. Operating in a 20,000-foot indoor greenhouse which is also a historic space, The GrowHaus not only grows produce all year and is an approachable marketplace, but also relies on community partners to make sure their mission is impactful throughout Denver.

Mindful living seems to be a special part of Denver culture, which we’ve noticed with several restaurants and organizations throughout the city. How does The GrowHaus fit into this larger value of health consciousness and, on the other hand, what sort of obstacles do you encounter?

The vision of The GrowHaus is to create a world where all communities have the means to nourish themselves. We believe that being able to live a healthy lifestyle should be a right for all, rather than a privilege for some. The GrowHaus aims to create a community-driven, neighborhood-based food system by serving as a hub for food production, food distribution, food education, and economic opportunity.

However, community members have voiced financial and geographical challenges to accessing and creating healthy food. The average annual household income in our local Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighborhood is about half of what it is in Greater Denver area. And many residents have to travel over a mile to reach a full-service grocery store, making the neighborhood a designated food desert.

In what ways does the location of The GrowHaus inform the organization?

The GrowHaus is located in the Globeville and Elyria-Swansea (GES) neighborhood in Northeast Denver, and primarily serves this specific geography. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that everyone in this area has lasting access to healthy food. Our programming is designed to leverage our local community’s assets to overcome challenges. Based on feedback and ideas from community members, we aim to fulfill our mission through four main focuses: food access, food production, education, and community outreach.

For example, given that nearly 70% of families in GES have children, compared to about 50% in Greater Denver, The GrowHaus offers immersive education programs for kids who may be able to influence positive change in their parents’ lives as well as their future children.

Who are your most active community partners who assist you in making your mission impactful?  

The success of The GrowHaus would not be possible without the strong support of community residents, partner organizations, and corporate sponsors. Local community members share their challenges with The GrowHaus, which allows us to provide the necessary tools to overcome those challenges. But in order to fully equip residents, we often collaborate with other similar organizations like Focus Points and Denver Food Rescue who are working to alleviate food injustice from a different angle. We also rely on our partners like the City of Denver and YMCA. In addition, corporate sponsors, such as TIAA and CoBack provide financial resources to ensure the sustainability of The GrowHaus programming.

Kayla Birdsong, Executive Director of GrowHaus.

Kayla Birdsong, Executive Director of GrowHaus.

Can you tell us more about your hydroponic and aquaponic farming methods and how these allows you to operate more efficiently? How do these methods influence your mission?

Our hydroponic and aquaponic farms use innovative and sustainable technologies to provide fresh and healthy food year round to our local community and Greater Denver. Both farming techniques leverage our communities’ assets and provide solutions to potential challenges. For example, to overcome space and resource constraints, our hydroponic farm uses 90 percent less water and much less space than required with traditional farming. We are also working to leverage our community members’ interest in and family history of farming by employing community members to work in the farms and as a way to further engage residents in The GrowHaus programming. By empowering residents to grow food in their own neighborhood, The GrowHaus is fulfilling a portion of its mission to be a community-driven, neighborhood-based hub for food production.

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We understand that The GrowHaus relies strongly on your wonderful volunteers to keep the organization thriving. How else can individuals become involved?

Beyond volunteering at our weekly opportunities, individuals can join our monthly donation-based membership club, Tambien. Our members are a diverse network of changemakers who are passionate about improving access to healthy food for all. Members receive discounts to monthly workshops and have exclusive access to pop-up dinners and other Denver food and drink events.

The GrowHaus also offers a weekly food box program, similar to a CSA share, that includes ingredients from local and organic farms. The program is open to everyone, and all proceeds go directly to support The GrowHaus programming.

In addition, The GrowHaus hires interns to support all areas of programming. By becoming an intern, you will be immersed in a dynamic, supportive work environment, where every day is a new adventure. Interns are challenged to think critically and given on the job coaching and professional feedback.

Your website is so informative and thorough. Can you offer any advice to similar organizations on how they can work to cultivate a sense of community online?

We are constantly working to engage our followers and champions online. Along with using our website to show our audience what we do and how we do it, we use social media as a strategy to display our impact and invite opportunities for feedback. Our online presence helps us to understand our communities’ needs and how our supporters would like to engage with us in the future. Creating an opportunity for feedback is extremely important to us as we pride ourselves on not only listening but also responding in an appropriate way.

The GrowHaus is powered by the Bedford Squarespace template.

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