The vision for Operation Grow came directly from the women we serve. During our strategic planning process and subsequent focus groups, the women we serve told us they needed more employability skills and confidence, more food and hope for a brighter future. The women asked for ways to break away from the oppressive grips of trauma which is compounded by their lived experiences of multi-generational poverty. A significant number of the women we serve are not new to us; we have served their grandmothers and their mothers. So many of the women we have spoken with, after having survived the chaos of multi-generational violence and trauma have never had outside employment modelled to them. In recognition of the needs and realities of women we began to explore and research several business options.
In 2015 the commitment was made to Operation Grow and research began on best practices for social enterprises. In developing our vision we recognized that our business model had to address the predominant social issues identified by the women we serve: social isolation, food insecurity and poverty.
At the heart of the business is a vertical farm using cutting edge technology to grow pesticide free, non-GMO produce in stacked rows inside a controlled-indoor environment. Operation Grow will address the demand for local fresh quality produce. Our produce will be distributed locally in both retail and wholesale markets at a competitive price point. Greens will be sold at a reduced cost to low-income women.
The social goals of Operation Grow are all meant to support women in obtaining self-agency and empowerment. Some of these goals include:
- Increased employability
- Employment stability
- Improved standard of living
- Increased social capital
- Increased food security
- Decreased isolation
- Increased community engagement
- Enhanced housing stability
- Improved self-awareness
We also have business goals which will support Operation Grow’s ability to reach our social goals. Business goals:
- Open a larger-scale vertical farm to provide women who have experienced violence an opportunity for more employment and revenue.
- Generate sufficient revenue to sustain Operation Grow and other programs of HTH.
Key Evolution Points
- Conducted feasibility study/strategic plan with the support of Lakehead University Business students under the direction of Dr. Akingbola
- Board approves Operation Grow
- Sourced small-scale vertical farm technology/equipment from ZipGrow Canada.
- Received Sexual Assault Innovation Fund grant from the Ministry of the Status of women. This grant launched the intensive development of Operation Grow.
- Developed a business plan with Dr. Akingbola from Lakehead University
- Board struck a working group of subject matter experts to oversee Operation Grow’s development
- Conducted extensive site search resulting in the purchase of the old LCBO building in December 2016.
- Began renovations with Cumulus Architects and Bertram construction.