The Groundswell Network Society-run community greenhouse in Invermere is attracting a tidal wave of attention from all around the world, unbeknownst to many Columbia Valley residents.
The greenhouse was recently featured in a Slovenian book on unique greenhouse throughout the globe, and in a prominent Finnish agricultural magazine. A recently concluded permaculture design course conducted at the greenhouse attracted students not only from all across Canada and south of the border, but also from Germany,Chile, the Netherlands and Nicaragua. Groundswell is preparing a delegation to visit Finland some time in the near future to do presentations on their work with the greenhouse. Aside from the attention generated through these more formal channels, society members relate that they have been informally contacted by literally hundreds of community representatives from around the world during the past few years, all curious about the greenhouse.
“(The greenhouse) is hyper-innovative. People might look at it and, at first glance, see it as just a community greenhouse, but what Groundswell has built there is better described as a centre for applied sustainability —one that demonstrates an on-the-ground approach easily replicated around the world,” said Calgary-basedVerge Permaculture company co-owner Rob Avis, who has used the greenhouse as a base from which to runPermaculture Design Certificate courses (which he describes as “the design of sustainable human habitat —essentially, ecological engineering”) for the past two years, including the previously mentioned course that drew students from at least six different countries.
“We have people come from all over the world to do the course we run in Invermere because the community greenhouse there is internationally recognized. It’s quite well-known around the world and I don’t think people in Invermere realize just how famous their greenhouse is,” said Avis. “It is actually the largest passive-solar greenhouse in the northern hemisphere. It’s located at fairly high northern latitudes and has no propane source,yet the temperature inside the greenhouse doesn’t go below zero thanks to this innovative heat capture mechanism Groundswell has built. I am an engineer and I am always talking about what they (Groundswell) have managed to achieve in a genuinely cold climate. I’m get a lot of questions on how to do this from other cold climate places such as Norway and Russia.”
Avis added that aside from the heat capture mechanism, the greenhouse’s “super energy efficient” design —with specially insulated east, west and north walls and light only coming in through the south wall — helps the inside stay toasty even if it’s frigid outside.
Aside from the international attention, the Groundswell community greenhouse is becoming quite well-known in other parts of Canada, having recently been featured prominently in a Canadian permaculture journal. Also,Groundswell members are heading to Nova Scotia later this month to do presentations and help with fundraisersf or a group hoping to build a similar greenhouse there. The society is also currently fielding design support requests from Prince George and Manitoba, and had similar requests or visits this past summer from groups inFort McLeod and Quebec.
“There’s so much happening at that site besides just a greenhouse — it is truly a sustainability site. There are not that many demonstratable sites, where you can teach people about what they are seeing, in the world that are built to that calibre,” said Avis. “For instance, it has a remarkable storm water management system that takes in a quarter of a million litres of water per year.”
The water is re-used for the greenhouse’s passive irrigation system.
“It’s important because Invermere actually has a pretty bad storm water management issue, and if that’s not managed more holistically, it could affect the lake,” said Avis, adding that, in turn, could affect the valley’s tourism industry.
“Other communities marvel at what has been built there (at the Groundswell greenhouse). I am always blown away by how few locals realize what is there and how much work has gone into making it. It is a real gem,” he said, adding he strongly encourages valley residents to check it out.
“I feel as though Invermere should be really proud,” he said. “It’s unheard of for a site like this to be found in a town of 3,000 permanent residents.”
To learn more about the Groundswell community greenhouse, visit it in person at 1535 14th Street in Invermere,or check out http://groundswellnetwork.ca/.