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Member UPDATE – January 2023

groundswell logoNew web-based membership system
Check out your membership status – has it expired? If you haven’t checked, you can by going to the login page.
Use your email to login. If the message «user not found» shows up, it means you are not a member. Otherwise, you’ll see your member info and expiry date. If you forgot your password, click «forgot password». Contact us for any other error message.
To become member visit the membership page.

Welcome back to Groundswell. Change continues to happen in the gardens. Be informed. As a past member you have helped to sustain Groundswell. You are important.

As Groundswell moves forward we focus more on the critical issue of Food Sustainability in the Valley.

We all know the impact of Covid. We all know what it was like to have the valley cut off by floods, fires and avalanche. We know how fast the grocery shelves emptied. We also know the impact of inflation on ever rising grocery prices and how hard that makes it for many families to put nutritious food on the table. Groundswell has expanded its role:

  • In Permaculture and creating living soil and water conservation
  • Around producing higher yields in the greenhouse and garden so there is more produce for the valley
  • In education for the school program which now encompasses 180 elementary student and the high school Chef’s program
  • In educating the public to produce more and to do it sustainably
  • In encouraging and supporting new greenhouses through the valley
  • In partnering with the valley’s non-profits to leverage resources including The Library Seed Program, The Chamber, Columbia Valley Food and Farm, Wildsight and Wing’s Over the Rockies.


Things to look forward to:

  1. Beds by the greenhouseNew 2 tiered Membership – The Premium Membership offers many benefits including discounts at Home Hardware for all your gardening needs and The Regular Membership which ensures you have access to all your basic needs at a very affordable price.
  2. More beds available in the Community gardens for folks without gardens to grow fresh produce for their own family.
  3. More Workshops – join us for learning both basics and fun extras on gardening, food, nutrition, etc. Check out our calendar at
  4. Beds by the greenhouseMore Garden Tours – learning and enjoying tours through the valley with interesting and interested people. Tours are always about everyday gardeners dealing with challenges, being innovative, using permaculture, saving water and creating beauty. Many include refreshments and fun social aspects.
  5. Answers to your gardening questions. If we don’t have them we will help you find them.
  6. Beds by the greenhouseFind your Tribe – Volunteer opportunities include everything from getting your hands dirty, learning by doing, planting, transplanting, harvesting, assisting at social events, being on a committee. You can choose as much or as little as you want, things that interest you and expand your skills to add to your CV and you can choose the timing that works for you, whether you have 1 hour a week or 1 week a year. Belong to tribe that cares about being gentle on the earth, cares about having everyone fed, likes to party with and share knowledge and experiences with like others.
  7. Beds by the greenhouseChristmas Light Festival – a major December fund raising, community event at the greenhouse which will generate funds desperately needed for operations.
    Beds by the greenhouseLights, action, camera… an extravaganza of music, food, bonfires, and beauty for the whole family. Come be a part of making it a huge success.
    Needed – donations of money and Christmas decorations, creative and crafty hands, organizing skills and handyperson techniques.
    For info or to volunteer, the volunteers page.

Welcome to the Gardens 2023

Stay Green and Growing

Deb Griffith
Partnership Director

Barbara Thrasher
Event Coordinator

Food sustainability

Community greenhouse thriving in the B.C. Interior

A small-town greenhouse, passive and solar, owned by everybody, is tucked away beside the headwaters of the Columbia River in the East Kootenays. It was unique when built and scores high for creativity today.

November 28, 2022 By John Dietz   from Greenhouse Canada ►

greenhouseWith about 100 active members, the Groundswell network hosts workshops and hundreds of visitors, including busloads of school children.

Step aside commercial, university and hobby greenhouse operators, this is a story about a community’s greenhouse in southeastern British Columbia. It’s a humble, educational, technical achievement and easy to miss.

More than an insulated, thermal-heated, 2,400-square-foot curved-wall greenhouse, Groundswell is “a living classroom that teaches people of all ages how to grow crops regeneratively,” says the community website: 

With about 100 active members, the network hosts workshops and hundreds of visitors, including busloads of school children. It is studied and emulated in other countries, though it is little-known in Canada. 

Groundswell Community Passive Solar Greenhouse and Gardens, operated by the non-profit Groundswell Network Society, is in Invermere B.C., close to the Alberta border and about 300 km southwest of Calgary. 

The site occupies one-and-a-quarter acres (about 5,000 sq. m.) adjacent to David Thompson Secondary School and College of the Rockies. It is on the inside of a switchback curve alongside 14th Street. 

The greenhouse itself, about 40 ft. x 60 ft., is beside a hillside. Sunlight enters from a large curved-glass, south-facing wall. The north side holds a flat, insulated roof now surmounted by 15 large solar photovoltaic panels that generate electricity. 

Inside, a solar-powered system sends hot water through an under-slab earth-heating system. As well, warm air at the top is collected and pushed nine feet below ground with a fan. From the edge of the roof, rainwater funnels into and through a water retention system. 

The greenhouse became operational in 2009. Workers could start plants in February and be harvesting the last tomatoes in November. 

In retrospect, it was built with foresight for conditions developing today. 

Back in 2014, then executive director Bill Swan said, “Why greenhouses aren’t all like this is because we live in an era of very inexpensive energy. And what we have tried to demonstrate here is to anticipate the change in that reality that many in the food sector believe is coming.” 

New leadership and an energized six-member volunteer board has gradually been introducing changes. 

Groundswell more than tripled the output of the original solar system in 2021 by adding 15 larger solar panels. The increased electrical output supports a new pump and an electric water boiler, creating a combination of passive and active heating. 

“Two years ago (2020) was the first year we were successful in growing marketable produce through the full 12 months of the year,” says volunteer director Deborah Griffith. “With the support of our new solar panel system and new electric water boiler, we kept temps in winter around 10C and kept growing through the coldest months.”

Passive energy from incoming sunlight and active energy from the ground below, regulated by an original Argus climate control system installed at the outset, kept the selected cool-season spices, herbs, and veggies comfortable. 

Outside, in the valley between the Kootenay Mountains, the temperature was mostly below freezing for about 100 days.

The recent technology investment (about $20,000) produces enough electricity on an annual basis, Griffith says, to offset the new “active energy” heating bill for the greenhouse.

Twenty to 30 (or more) local organizations, donors and volunteers support the community-based programs. It offers raised-bed rental gardens, community events, market gardens, even soil research and production. It has become, in effect, a local educational institution for regenerative or permaculture management practices. 

Last fall, two staff members and volunteers took off the last tomatoes and planted the first cold weather winter seedlings. 


End-to-end, this original greenhouse was “unique,” says Griffith. “We get requests monthly from people who want to re-create what we’re doing. There isn’t one exactly like it anywhere. The concept was to extend the season by taking warm air from inside the greenhouse and pumping it underground.”

A huge pipe collects the warm air. A fan pushes the heat through smaller pipes that connect and go down eight or nine feet into the ground. Below the greenhouse, a series of tubes along the full length of the greenhouse release the heat underground. They warm the ground, creating a heat sink. The floor of the greenhouse is a cement slab over a layer of Styrofoam insulation. This helps retain the bank of stored energy. During winter, the energy slowly seeps up through another pipe and natural spaces that aren’t fully insulated.

The north side of the building has an insulated roof and a thermally massive concrete wall. It all retains heat, storing it for release overnight. 

The greenhouse has raised wooden beds for production. Theses beds are about 3 ft. by 8-ft. long, on the ground, on legs or on wheels, and have automatic drip irrigation. The boxes use a metal netting underneath, supporting layers of weed control fabric, gravel, and soil. A composting program supplies the soil.

The original kitchen also had upgrades in 2021. 

“A major upgrade in the kitchen allowed us to more easily access the area. We put in an island where we work with the harvest material, new counters, new donated cabinets, a stove, dishwasher, and a huge commercial fridge with sliding glass doors,” Griffith says. “You can have an herbal workshop here, sit around the island and talk. Plus, volunteers and staff have space to clean the produce after harvest, put it in bags and get it ready for sale.”

greenhousegreenhouseThe north side holds a flat, insulated roof now surmounted by 15 large solar photovoltaic panels that generate electricity.

Background to Groundswell

Around 2006, according to Griffith, local chef and teacher Alison Bell approached the Columbia Valley Botanical Gardens organization to see if it could support building a greenhouse with an extended growing season and kitchen for students. A groundswell of community support developed. The school division made land available to develop gardens and greenspace as well as a greenhouse. The new passive, solar greenhouse was commissioned in 2009 as a pilot project. 

Bill Swan, a past Parks Canada official involved with adventure tourism, became the executive director for several years. 

Griffith introduced the Wild Voices for Kids program from the background while doing communications and education with Parks Canada. She came onto the board of directors in 2019.

Rob Avis, an environmental engineer in Calgary, became an interested advisor. Avis helped them with overall initial design concepts, using the principles of permaculture, to make the 12,000 square foot site an “ecological gem.” 

Groundswell’s website describes permaculture as “a holistic approach to design allowing creation of a sustainable and regenerative system based on science yet guided by ethics.” 

Holistic design

designGroundswell has a community garden space with 18 raised garden boxes, a community gathering space, two perennial food forests, and a market garden.

The design intended to address issues of climate change, energy, water and resource conservation, regional ecosystems and biodiversity conservation, food security, and the decline of agriculture in the region. 

Conceptually, Groundswell now has a community garden space with 18 raised garden boxes, a community gathering space with a pond and wetlands, two perennial food forests of edible, medicinal and fibre-producing plants, and a market garden. It hosts events and educational programs throughout the year. Recently, directors opened a second location, Mount Nelson Community Gardens, with another 29 garden boxes for public rental. 

Along with permaculture, water flow guided the design by Avis. It formed the foundation for placing the gardens, food forests and gathering space beside the greenhouse, Avis said in an early video. The concept, in part, was to fully supply the watering needs for the greenhouse and gardens without using very much potable water from Invermere. 

A swale beside the greenhouse, for instance, directs water flow from major rain events safely along the slopes of the site, infiltrating the whole garden area and spilling into the pond. The pond has a constructed wetland to clean the water and overflow spillways draining into the food forests. 

An eco-friendly rainwater gathering system now is on the north side of the greenhouse. On the other side, a south-facing area with a curved rock wall provides a thermal barrier and space for garden beds. 

“We try to really demonstrate what a functioning greenhouse and market garden in your backyard could look like,” Griffith says. “Staff put in the market garden, then do the feeding and amending. Volunteers come twice a week in summer and fall to help us harvest. We sell most produce to a local market on the highway, and people buy directly from us. Some produce also goes to the local food bank.”

Recent programs

Popular new programs have been introduced at Groundswell in the recent past. 

“Apple Rescue” sends staff and volunteers out to pick apples for area residents who can’t pick themselves. 

“The reason is to keep bears from coming into town. We are in the Columbia Valley and surrounded by forest. Bears are everywhere, and there are tons of apple trees here, too,” Griffith says. 

There are markets for the good apples collected; the rest become animal feed at local farms. 

“Seniors’ Luncheon” is a second new program. Groundswell directors decided to try offering a senior’s luncheon late in 2019. They were surprised to see 35 people attend for the first event. 

“We did that for the rest of the fall and would like to do it again,” Griffith says. 

Last spring, three classes from another local school started a ‘growing’ program, using the community gardens and visiting the greenhouse both spring and fall. 

On sunny, chilly days in the fall, the thriving greenhouse gets really warm. Even in winter, vents are opened at times. Old and young visitors love it. It’s common to hear, “It feels so much like spring in here!”

Rustic Holiday Wreathwreath

wreath workshop
wreath workshop
wreath workshop
wreath workshopThe Home Hardware holiday wreath making workshop brought out the creative gifts of our talented valley folk and resulted in some beautiful, festive wreaths. 
The scent of greenery – pine, fir, juniper and cedar filled the air adding to the festive season. Pynelogs rang with laughter and busy conversations as people discussed holiday plans. 
Groundswell was careful to prune only where the forest wanted them and in such a way as to encourage new growth next year. The trees and bushes shared their bounty and we gave thanks. 

Celebrate the Season with your own special touches…

A Rustic Holiday Wreath – SOLD OUT

Join friends and create a natural, fragrant, and recyclable wreath of green bowers, burlap bows, pinecones and berries.
You don’t have to be crafty to do this well, come to have fun!

apple cider

Date: Tuesday 2022 Dec 6
Time: 6:30 to 8:30
Location: Pynelogs

Sip hot apple cider as you check one more task off your holiday list. √

Cost: $30 members, $35 for non-members (All materials provided).

Wild Birds in Your Garden

Become a Wingnut – an invitation from Brian Wesley to care for the Wild Birds in Your Garden
Info Session – Dec. 3, 2022
Brian WesleyBrian WesleyBrian WesleyBrian Wesley shared numerous tips and answered questions on how to care for Wild Birds. Turkey, squirrel, bear and magpie problems were discussed with excellent input from Brian and from the attendees who had many personal experiences to share.
The session wrapped with a discussion on volunteering for the Christmas bird count, using Cornell as an expert source and concern over the diminished number of songbirds seen locally over the past two years. The group discussed the impact of the 2021 heat bloom on the birds and will keep their eyes out to see how we are doing through the coming winter. To participate in future bird counts contact: Brian Wesley bjwesley at

I learned a lot at this session. I didn’t know my Junco didn’t go south but instead he just moves into a new local home for the winter.” – Carole P
I have been spending a lot of money on fancy food that makes a mess for me to clean up. Thanks for educating me on a simpler way.” – Barbara T
Excellent workshop, both Curtis and I enjoyed it and learned a lot. We will definitely be watching for Wings Over the Rockies Come Spring.” – Thea W
Great tips on avoiding unwanted wildlife when you are feeding birds.” – Jim

Birds In My Garden – attracting and caring for wild birds to increase biodiversity and make your garden healthier
Brian Wesley, one of the top birders in our valley, whose Wings Over the Rockies bird walks are always the first to be SOLD OUT, will share ideas on how to best manage the bird life in your garden. Learn more about how to feed birds without attracting other wildlife (bears and turkeys) you don’t want.

Bird feeder
Would you like to look out your window and see this? A photo from Brian’s Window…

LEARN HOW: Different bird feeders have different uses and what to put in them to attract a variety of birds. Know and understand more about the diversity of the wild birds in the valley who are looking for a nice, safe, home for the winter. Learn how your garden flower seeds can come into play.
Gain a new appreciation for the value birds bring to your garden, not only through their song but also through their actions.
Location: Pynelogs
Date: Saturday, 2022 Dec 3
Time: 10:00 – 11:30
Cost: Members $20. Non members $25. Young people over 10 are welcome to attend if they love nature and are interested in taking on the task of being responsible for the birds in their backyard.

Brian WesleyFacilitator:
Brian Wesley, a local birding enthusiast, has been a resident of the valley for the past 10 years. Brian has participated in numerous birding studies: British Columbia Breeding Bird Atlas, Saskatchewan Breeding Bird Atlas, Wildlife Canada Services Lewis’ Woodpecker Studies and the Columbia Wetlands Waterbird Survey. He remains an active birder, completing annual Birds Canada Nightjar Survey, BC and Yukon Owl Survey and Wildlife Canada Services North American Breeding Bird Survey. He is a member of the Wings Over the Rockies Board.. His extensive knowledge of the environment opens up discussion far beyond birds. His walks take in everything from history and geology, to wildlife of all kinds. His interesting anecdotes help the information stick. His introduction to the sounds around you is both amazing and helpful. Brian’s low key leadership style makes participation comfortable for newcomers and experienced nature seekers alike.