Now Reading
Grow Hub Building Community, Empowering Disabled Adults

Grow Hub Building Community, Empowering Disabled Adults

GROW HUB empowers disabled adults by providing them with paid horticultural work, helping both people and plants to thrive. When GROW HUB’s plants reach area nurseries and restaurants, new partnerships are formed and the whole community benefits. 

Executive Director David Banes is a former Exceptional Student Education (ESE) teacher who had the inspiration to create GROW HUB –– Growing Real Opportunities to Work–Harvest of Urban Business. He asked the owners of the plant nursery at what is now Cymplify Coffee Company if his disabled students could grow plants there, and the owners agreed. 


“When the students heard that the plants they were growing would be used in a new café, they didn’t understand what that meant,” Banes said. “But as soon as the café opened and they saw their plants being used in the kitchen and on the menu, they had a huge empowering moment—‘I grew that!’ That was a new experience for them because they were relied on.” 

Growing People and Plants 

From that small beginning, community support enabled GROW HUB to evolve into a federally recognized nonprofit plant nursery on several acres in Greater Gainesville. GROW HUB’s mission is to cultivate, empower and assist adults with disabilities for sustainable living through education, training and employment. The organization’s success is reflected in its enthusiastic employees and network of community supporters that includes restaurants, schools and hospitals. 

GROW HUB offers wholesale and retail plant sales. Visitors can buy Florida native plants, including perennials liked by local pollinators, ornamental plants, vegetable starts, fruit trees, local honey and more. Proceeds from sales provide employee salaries and support the nonprofit. 

“People’s expectations of disabled workers are lower than they should be,” Banes said. “The focus is often on the disability instead of the ability. At Grow Hub, we focus on abilities to match people with tasks because we want our employees to see possibilities.” 

Some employees have advanced to jobs in other local plant nurseries and food service kitchens. 


Growing Community Connections 

According to Banes, the most significant parts of GROW HUB’s work are the connections that are made between its disabled employees, visitors and community supporters. He also mentioned the uplifting energy that people feel when they visit. Employee Kyle Smith and GROW HUB Board Member Stephen Griffin agreed.  

See Also

Smith, who handles plant sales, said his favorite part of the job is interacting with customers and other employees. “We are a little family here, with a lot of smiles,” he said. “I like that I’ve been here long enough to know our customers and many of them know me.” 

Griffin, who does maintenance and construction, looks forward to creating new community partnerships. “We have room to grow and could hire more employees. I’ve yet to give more to GROW HUB than I’ve received. Magic happens when you walk through our gates.” 


For more information, call 352-275-7144 or visit 

Copyright © 2024 Costello Communications & Marketing, LLC

Scroll To Top