Dahlia Campus for Health and Well-Being

Where is your farm located?

The Aquaponic Greenhouse is located at Dahlia Campus Farms and Gardens in Northeast Denver. The newly constructed Mental Health Center of Denver enriches lives and minds by focusing on strengths and well-being, known locally and nationally as a model for innovative and effective community behavioral healthcare.

Who is involved? 

Mental Health Center of Denver provides a place for community members to connect with their neighbors, learn new skills and find supports they need to increase their health and well-being. They strongly believe food is an important foundation to physical and emotional health.

North Park Hill Community is a vibrant and culturally rich neighborhood which has well established community gardens and values personal interaction. Access to healthy food and family oriented spaces were top criteria for the new farm and facilities.

Jenna Smith is the aquaponic farm manager and brings both experience and

Jenna Smith giving a tour at the grand opening of the greenhouse

Jenna Smith giving a tour at the grand opening of the greenhouse

academic knowledge to aquaponic production, community involvement, and educational outreach. She is heading up the growing efforts as well as managing interns and learning engagement programs.

JD Sawyer the owner of The Aquaponic Source along with their team designed and built the deep water culture aquaponic system. The collaboration at Dahlia Campus furthers the mission to connect people with healthy food. They view locally grown, sustainable food as the foundation to healthier eating, healthier lifestyles, and healthier communities.

JD Sawyer

JD Sawyer, designer of the aquaponic build

Aquaculture Systems Technology (AST) designed and constructed the fiberglass raceway fish tank system and integrated filtration.

Nexus built the greenhouse and installed the environmental systems.

The Dahlia Campus Farms and Gardens, provides Horticultural Therapy for children and families. They also maintain a learning landscape pond and a native plant garden for education about pollinators. Partners in growing and food outreach include:

Children’s Farms of America helps neighborhoods establish their own unique farm where children learn about food and grow it – for themselves and their community.

Mo’ Betta Green MarketPlace has been addressing food insecurity in food desert neighborhoods since 2010. By hosting weekly markets, tastings, and cooking demos, they emphasize HEAL— Healthy Eating, Active Living— to promote food literacy.

People’s Community Food Project provides emergency food assistance and outreach programs geared towards wellness of children and seniors, food rescue and distribution with a focus on providing healthier sustainable choices for the community in whole.

Sprout City Farms cultivates educational urban farms that engage and strengthen communities. They envision a thriving local food system supported by a network of city farms that nourish, and are nourished by, their surrounding community.

What are the farm specs?

The Mental Health Center of Denver, Dahlia Campus is home to a 5,400 sq ft state of the art aquaponic greenhouse, and over an acre of outdoor growing space, children’s food garden, farm stand and community outreach center. Specifically the aquaponic greenhouse includes:

FIT-400-croppedFish tanks – Two 2,800 gallons growout raceways housing four age cohorts, one houses channel catfish and the other houses tilapia. Two 400 gallon nursery tanks for quarantining newly stocked fingerlings.

Filtration – Aquaculture Systems Technology FITTM (Filter In Tank) Integrated Bead PolyGeyserTM Filter, auto-pneumatic backwash, airlift driven recirculating system, no water pumps required.

MHCD raftsDeep Water Culture – Three 8’ x 76’ DWC troughs constructed with metal framing, Duraskrim liner and 28 hole lettuce raft boards. It can be run coupled with the fish tanks or decoupled and run independently as necessary. This system currently grows 12 varieties of leafy green lettuce, cooking greens and culinary herbs.

IMG_8651Nursery table and elevated lattice rafts – growing microgreens and seedlings

AquaBundance – 200 gallon fish tank and media beds for growing flowering and fruiting crops

What is your mission?

To promote community health and well-being through access to healthy food, spaces to connect, and opportunities to learn. The campus features beautiful outdoor spaces to support multi-generational populations as they gather, connect, cook and play.

What inspired you to get into aquaponics?

Knowing that the community wanted both plants and protein production on-site to provide a more balanced diet and the desire to promote food as a form of prevention, wellness and healing.

What are some of the current challenges?

Distribution of the immense amount of food grown on site. Community outreach and support is growing, but the food is growing faster. Food distribution to local restaurants, markets, catering companies and CSA programs is helping spread the abundance.

What are your future goals?

To help other community-focused organization recognize the value of including onsite food production as part of their strategic and operational plan. Food production, education and distribution can be realized in many different settings such as offices, schools, retirement center, medical campuses, and anywhere there is space, need and desire to grow healthy food.