Photos by Kendra Worsnup
A downtown beekeeping hub buzzes with activity on Sunday as community members gather to plant in Growhouse’s garden.
Growhouse, a nonprofit community garden blooming with greens and opportunity, sits on the southwest corner of Garfield and Sixth streets.
Every Sunday, Growhouse opens up gardening as an option for the community. From 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. during the summer and 10 a.m. until noon starting in October, people can come to weed the gardens, prepare the space for planting and plant vegetables.
“Being outside on Sunday is what keeps me sane,” said Kenny Barrett, program manager for the Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation. “It’s good for the soul to be outside once a week.”
The event brings out people from all different backgrounds who come for various reasons.
“We meet the coolest people here,” Barrett added.
Stephanie Terrell, a Tempe woman, participated after hearing about the event from the volunteer page of her employer, Wells Fargo.
“It brings up this neighborhood,” Terrell said. “I grew up here and it was nothing to look at.”
A different group slightly outside of the gardening community is responsible for another facet of Growhouse. This past spring, PBS approached Growhouse about starting beehives for their show SciGirls, which encourages young girls to pursue knowledge and involvement in sciences. PBS gave maintaining the beehives as a challenge for three girls from the Bioscience High School in Phoenix.
The taping of the show occurred throughout the month of March and, since then, Growhouse has kept the bees.
“It’s pretty easy,” Barrett said. “The basil is blooming right now and they are all over that.”
Currently, though, the beekeeping is at a halt. Growhouse does not have the funds for the extractor needed to retrieve the honey, but Barrett still cleans the hives once a week, checking for disease or problems with the honeybees.
Juan Sanchez brought his son, Emilio, and Emilio’s best friend, Israel Rubalcava, for gardening at Growhouse to meet community service requirements for their eighth grade social studies class.
“We like to be able to help the community and plant things while getting our hours,” Emilio said.
Growhouse is helping out by creating a network that is close yet still open to new joiners. Alex Novak, a sophomore studying sustainability at ASU and an intern with Roosevelt Row CDC, values gardening as “an essential tool to know”, particularly here in downtown.
“This area has a very tight-knit group of people, and I think they’re all fantastic,” Novak said.
In addition, the vegetables grown by Growhouse are sold to a chef from Scottsdale restaurant FnB, which provides the necessary funds for water and supplies at the garden, according to Barrett.
“You know the community is getting fresh food,” Terrell said.
Walking by, the aroma of basil floats in the air along with the soft sound of the buzzing bees. Growhouse is more than meets the eye — a beekeeping hub, living space, partner with GROWop (a for-profit clothing store), host of private garden plots available to rent and a community garden.
Growhouse offers more than one way to get your gardening fix. It recently made private gardening readily available to the community, renting its plots on a month-by-month basis.
“Collectively, it makes something really neat,” Barrett said.
There are currently two plots available for the public to rent. Each plot is available for $10 per month. More spots can be carved out of the community garden if private renting becomes a high demand, Barrett added.
Currently, there are several private renters, including the National Organization for Women, who have planted the basil that lines the eastern edge of the property.
“I think urban farming is super important,” Novak said. “I think it’s really important that a city can sustain itself, especially in a place like Phoenix. This is an oasis in our downtown desert. It’s nice especially for the people who live here.”
In addition, Growhouse partners with the for-profit store GROWop, which is also helping the community.
“GROWop provides business opportunities for local artists,” Barrett said. “It’s an incubator space for that.”
Barrett talked of ideas for Growhouse in the future, including a garden and/or grocery store to further utilize the space.
One thing is certain. Whether it is through providing a space for local designers to sell their merchandise, offering plots to gardeners, creating opportunities to garden with your community, or being involved in the beekeeping process, Growhouse is definitely helping the community.
“There’s no point in living in a community if you’re not going to participate and benefit from what it has,” Novak said.
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