Anthony Gibson and Ally Candy of Groundswell stand nextto the Groundswell Community Greenhouse in Invermere.

Community Greenhouse a finalist

Nominated for BC Real Estate Foundation's 2012 Land Awards.

There’s been some high praise for the Invermere Groundswell Community Greenhouse lately, as the project has been named a finalist for the BC Real Estate Foundation’s (BCREF) 2012 Land Awards for the first time.

“We really want to emphasize how it’s a major group and community effort,” said Groundswell board member Bill Swan. “Take the individuals out, we see it as a community achievement.”

The awards will take place at a special gala on Friday, October 26 in Vancouver where the finalists from each of the categories (non-profit, private and public) and the land champion will be recognized for their achievements before the final awards are given out. The Community Greenhouse has been nominated in the non-profit sector, alongside projects like the Vancouver Native Housing Society’s Skwachay Healing Lodge, the SOLEfood Farm in Vancouver and the Greater Victoria Housing Society’s Pembroke Mews Affordable Workforce Housing project.

“It’s great, we’re obviously pretty excited, and we feel good already to be in such great company,” Swan said. “I read over all the other projects too, and gosh, I want them all to win.”

Finished in 2009, the Community Greenhouse offers a solar-powered educational facility that provides practical examples of exactly what the Land Awards are all about: leadership, innovation, and collaboration in sustainable land use in British Columbia. Roughly 300 volunteers and 35 major funders were involved in the creation of the project, and 24 community groups have offered their support and assistance in a variety of ways. Today, a close partnership with David Thompson Secondary School means that students regularly visit and use the greenhouse for educational purposes, and the greenhouse also gives back by often donating produce to the surrounding communities.

“We were thinking about collaboration and and leadership right from the beginning, we built that right into the purpose of building the whole project,” Swan explained.

One of the offshoots of the greenhouse’s success has been the outpouring of interest from other communities across the country. Swan said two more communities had contacted Groundswell just this past week looking for advice and help on building their own community greenhouses, bringing the total number of communities that have directly contacted them up to 47. Groundswell is currently in the process of putting together a resource package for interested communities with the BC Real Estate Foundation’s assistance. When asked what one piece of advice he would give to other interested communities, Swan said preparation is important.

“”Have a really clear, compelling reason why you want to do this… be very clear on your goals, and be prepared to present it passionately to those who might be interested,” he said. “As it starts to take off you’ll be really glad that you created a very clear understanding about the goals, why you’re this and how you’re getting there.”

This will make the third year for the BCREF Land Awards, and BC Real Estate Foundation Communications and Administration Manager Celina Owen said that narrowing the field down to a just a few is never easy. With a large number of applicants each year, the BCREF turns to an arms-length committee to make the final decisions, and having sat in on several of those meetings, Owen said that there is also serious debate about which projects are selected. While not completely familiar with all the details of the Groundswell Community Greenhouse , she said it looked like a great community collaboration and called it a “fantastic initiative.”

“One of out main mandates is public education, so we want people to learn about these great projects so that they can do similar things in their communities, and find out what cool stuff is going on around the province,” Owen said. “We’ve found that in our two years so far of doing this… that people, when they come to the gala celebration they’re always pleasantly surprised at all the things that are going on.”