In January, 2006 teachers from David Thompson Secondary and leaders from Groundswell Network Society in Invermere were brought together by a common interest in gardens. Building a school garden led the conversation but the school year and gardening season don’t match up in the Kootenays, so we joined forces to build a season-extending greenhouse. The Community Greenhouse Team was formed and work began in earnest to determine the what, why, how, who, and where of this exciting initiative. Groundswell’s Community Greenhouse Team conducted a feasibility analysis and the outcome was an overwhelming YES! from our community about the need and interest in having a community greenhouse built. Support from BC Interior Health Community Food Action Initiative for feasibility included an analysis of different site options and eventually a location was selected adjacent to David Thompson Secondary School that Rocky Mountain School District Six made available to Groundswell under a licence of occupation. Groundswell Network Society owns and operates the Community Greenhouse and is responsible for all ongoing funding, operations, staffing and programming.
Research and Construction
Our vision and energy attracted the interest of funders and supporters that allowed us to carry out extensive research over the next eighteen months focused on design, programming, staffing and ownership/legal models. Experts were visited and brought in, tours of similar projects put us in direct contact with the people who made these projects happen and function. Twenty-four local groups had input into design and programming, and 35 funders contributed. Throughout the research, design and construction process Groundswell conducted several major events that raised awareness of our goals, attracted financial and material support and illustrated first hand the quality and content our future programming would offer. With a major boost of support from the Panorama Foundation and many other funders, construction began in May, 2008 and the whole community pitched in to help build the greenhouse with over 300 volunteers involved. In April 2009 our Community Greenhouse Grand Opening was held, our first Education Coordinator hired and our three year pilot project analyzing performance of everything from design to programming began thanks to additional support of the Columbia Basin Trust Community Initiatives Program.
A Hub for Applied Innovation and Leadership
Today the Community Greenhouse success continues; since our doors opened thousands of people have participated in programs, events, and workshops offered to all ages and interests from pre-schoolers to the more life-experienced members of our community. Agencies and organizations have found a venue to help deliver their program priorities that link with our own – local organic food production, food security, personal and community health, renewable energy, green building and transportation, water conservation, horticulture, community gardens, native plant conservation, permaculture, vermiculture, composting and waste management, community planning, economic development and youth training, social enterprise development, art, music and culture – a diverse and vibrant range of topics that reflect Groundswell’s mission to advance our long term sustainability. Constant evaluation of building performance and program effectiveness has resulted in ongoing upgrades and improvements to the initial innovative design and the types of programs we offer. The greenhouse itself harvests and conserves energy and water – we are carbon free in our operations with solar heat, solar electricity and solar powered electric transportation in action. Annualized Geo-Solar, the process of capturing and storing seasonal heat underground extends our growing season past ten months.
Rainwater is captured and redistributed to our gardens. Numerous sensors continuously monitor ground and air temperatures, humidity, light levels and outdoor weather. We are continually reviewing our facility’s performance and have recently made upgrades to insulation, lighting, additional solar PV modules, and improved rainwater filtration.The Community Greenhouse is an incredible asset that serves as a hub bringing people together for food, education, social contact and inspiration. For example, students in the David Thompson Secondary School’s Chef’s Training program grow, prepare and serve hundreds of pounds of fresh produce in the high school cafeteria. The District of Invermere’s long term Sustainability Plan, Imagine Invermere has a base of support and extension and provides practical examples in action for advancement of this thirty year vision for our community. At Groundswell we often say “we grow people and community, growing food is one of the vehicles that gets us there.” The project has proven to be a model for many other communities and organizations that want to do something similar. Over fifty other communities have contacted us and or participated in tours with a desire to initiate similar projects. The Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia and the Columbia Basin Trust have assisted Groundswell to address this demand for information with support for our communications, live workshops and through the development of our new online Community Greenhouse E-learning programs that provide detailed presentation of how we designed, built and run the Community Greenhouse. In 2012, Groundswell’s Community Greenhouse was a Finalist in the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia’s Land Awards.