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Denver Urban Gardens

Lettuce Give Thanks

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Let Us Give Thanks
By Max Coots

Let us give thanks for a bounty of people.

For children who are our second planting, and though they
grow like weeds and the wind too soon blows them away, may
they forgive us our cultivation and fondly remember where
their roots are.

Let us give thanks:

For generous friends…with hearts…and smiles as bright
as their blossoms;

For feisty friends, as tart as apples;

For continuous friends, who, like scallions and cucumbers,
keep reminding us that we’ve had them;

For crotchety friends, sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;

For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and
as elegant as a row of corn, and the others, as plain as
potatoes and so good for you;

For funny friends, who are as silly as Brussels sprouts and
as amusing as Jerusalem artichokes;

And serious friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle
as summer squash, as persistent as parsley, as delightful as
dill, as endless as zucchini and who, like parsnips, can be
counted on to see you through the winter;

For old friends, nodding like sunflowers in the evening-time,
and young friends coming on as fast as radishes;

For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold
us, despite our blights, wilts and witherings;

And finally, for those friends now gone, like gardens past
that have been harvested, but who fed us in their times that
we might have life thereafter.

For all these we give thanks.

Thanks to Debra Johnson for passing this on!

Glorious Garlic

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What garlic is to food, insanity is to art. – Augustus Saint-Gaudens

Garlic, the heart and soul of so many savory dishes, requires some planning on the part of farmers and gardeners. Less than a week after the season end, staff and volunteers at DeLaney Community Farm were putting garlic in the ground for the 2011 season.

Bucket of garlic, ready for planting.

Faatma plugging elephant garlic into the ground.

Letitia follows, tucking in the cloves for winter.

Danielle covers the freshly planted rows with straw.

Kevin, a DeLaney volunteers, assists with straw mulching. Volunteers like Kevin are crucial to DeLaney’s success.

With the garlic field ready to go, the DeLaney farm community can look forward to a delicious harvest in 2011. Craving garlic? Celebrate this Thanksgiving with garlic roasted winter squash, a quick, easy, and mouth watering autumn dish:

Garlic Roasted Winter Squash

Makes 2 servings

This recipe is great for smaller squash varieties that can be halved and then eaten as boats. Delicata, acorn, and small butternut squash work well.

1 small winter squash, halved and seeded

4 cloves garlic

Olive oil or butter


Optional: sage, oregano, or thyme

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place the squash halves cut-side up on a baking sheet, and place two whole garlic cloves, and a sprinkle of herbs, if using, in the hollow space of each squash. Brush the flesh of the squash with olive oil or butter and then add about a tablespoon of oil or butter to the hollow space along with the garlic. Sprinkle with salt and roast until squash is tender when poked with a fork, and the garlic is soft and beginning to brown (roasting times depend on squash size). To eat, mash the garlic into the squash with a fork. 


A Healthier Meal is a Happier Meal

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Posted by Emily Frost, Communications & Programs Intern.

The Golden Arches. Perhaps even more so than our flag, Lady Liberty, or the amorphous “Land of Opportunity”, these arches are the iconic representation of America.

If you’re anything like me, you delighted in trips to McDonald’s as a child largely because of the promise of the Happy Meal, featuring the toy inside that magical box of joy. I collected, coveted, and loved those cheap pieces of plastic. They were a part of my childhood culture. They may soon be a thing of the past—not just my own, but America’s.

The hottest food news sweeping the nation from our western shores has people in a tizzy about the state of the Happy Meal after the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance that effectively kills the McDonald’s Happy Meal.

Joe Eskenazi of the San Francisco Weekly perhaps puts it best when he wrote: 

It seems the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has accomplished what the Hamburglar never could. They’ve made off with McDonald’s fare.

But is the death of the Happy Meal really something to be mourned?

One of the board members who voted to increase demands for meals that include toys shares his reasoning in the Los Angeles Times:

“We’re part of a movement that is moving forward an agenda of food justice,” said Supervisor Eric Mar, who sponsored the measure. “From San Francisco to New York City, the epidemic of childhood obesity in this country is making our kids sick, particularly kids from low income neighborhoods, at an alarming rate. It’s a survival issue and a day-to-day issue.”

Take a look at what the ordinance actually asks for here:

  • Calories cannot exceed 600.
  • Sodium cannot exceed 650 milligrams.
  • Fat cannot exceed 35 percent of total calories, with less than 10 percent coming from saturated fats (some exceptions).
  • Meals must include fruits or vegetables.

Seems reasonable.

And in fact, the Happy Meal is probably not dead—just reinventing itself to accommodate these healthier demands. In a time when childhood obesity is on the rise and this generation has a life expectation less than our own because of it, can we really afford NOT to demand more from the food industry? The San Francisco Supervisors have let us know what they think in their clear 8-3 majority vote last Tuesday. writer Josh Ozersky offers his opinion on how this will impact the food industry:

The problem with the San Francisco approach is not that it won’t work — it probably will. If you are trying to keep kids from eating big, fattening meals, so as not to become big and fat themselves, arm-twisting McDonald’s into making its Happy Meals less caloric is one means by which to do so.

Another means of ensuring a healthy AND happy meal future for our children is through education. At Denver Urban Gardens we’re doing this through supporting 25+ school gardens, allowing kids the opportunityGenerations connect while learning first hand the joys of gardening and the goodness of fresh, local food. to get their hands dirty and experience a growing season as well as take valuable vegetables home to family. Our philosophy incorporates a cross-generational approach through our “Connecting Generations” program as we work to empower students to make informed and intelligent food choices. We value nutrition education and ultimately believe that the intrinsic benefits of community gardening and empowerment to make smart food choices are worth more than any toy.

Read more about our School Garden & Nutrition Education programs here.


The Hedonist’s Garden

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He even made the cover!Our own John Hershey, board member, former garden leader, and author of Rakish Wit, is featured in the Fall issue of Edible Front Range! Check it out:

In the springtime, garden writers everywhere rhapsodize about that glorious season of rebirth, when the earth comes alive, bursting with new vitality. This is all wonderful, but there has to be a flipside. If spring is the time of rebirth, then autumn must be the season of redeath.

While the spring garden teems with hope and possibility, a feeling of impending doom hangs over the garden in the fall. We count the days until the average first frost date, wondering if each tomato we pick will be the last one to ripen in time. The contrast is intense: Just as the garden reaches its peak lushness and finally begins to yield a bountiful harvest, a crisp new bite in the morning air reminds us of the inexorable passage of time that will suddenly turn it all into compost material.

The ephemeral beauty of the garden is a metaphor for our own lives. And long experience has led me to a profound insight that can help us make sense of these complicated feelings:

Life is like an ear rub.

Find out how life is like an ear rub by reading the full post at Edible Front Range. To read more from John, click here

The Utility in Urban Farming

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Posted by Emily Frost, Communications & Programs Intern. Sustainable Food writer Jason Mark tries to unearth the real benefits of urban farming in his recent article “If Urban Farms Can’t Feed Us, What Are They Good For?” Acknowledging that urban farming is unlikely to ever fully sustain us, he counters that community farming provides us with important intangibles that, though not quantifiable, are nevertheless invaluable:

There’s no doubt in my mind that urban farming is important. We should, though, be thoughtful about what we can realistically expect urban food production to achieve. At its best, urban farming is an important avenue for environmental recreation, a way to help protect farmland threatened by sprawl, and a chance to bring together diverse groups of people.

Mark also points out that having urban agriculturalists aim to harvest just a third of their total veggies, fruits, and eggs would allow surrounding farms to diversify their own crops. This would in turn expand the availability and spread of locally grown foods available to city-dwellers from farms that, though not urban, still exist within their food shed area, creating a more sustainable system for all.

Wild & Scenic Film Fest

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The weekend of November 6-7, the Center for Native Ecosystems is bringing the largest environmental film festival in North America to our own Mile High City. “Wild and Scenic” at the Denver Film Festival will feature inspiration films portraying the stories of grassroot organizations empowering communities and everyday heroes making a difference.

Stick around afterwards on Saturday for a complimentary reception with the environmental filmmakers and your fellow Denverite activists. Bring the kids along for a special children’s focused film festival on Sunday at noon.

For more information or to purchase tickets, be sure to click here to go to the Center for Native Ecosystems homepage. You can also check out some Wild & Scenic shorts here.

The Vanishing of the Bees

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This Thursday at 7:30 PM, the EventGallery 910Arts and Transition Denver are presenting a public screening of the fascinating documentary “The Vanishing of the Bees“. This film explores the importance of bees in our food systems and reveals unsettling truths about the significance of their steadily decreasing numbers, highlighting the unsung hero beekeepers who fight to keep them (and us, in turn) alive.

In other bee news, a recent NPR broadcast interviewed several beekeepers and examined the new-found (or perhaps rediscovered) fascination with bees, including the purported healing properties of their honey. The article notes that, while honey may be a sweet side-deal, the primary benefit of bees is how they enable our food to grow:

If the sole purpose of a bee was to make honey, perhaps the decline of bees wouldn’t be so troubling. But these tiny workers are hugely important to our food supply. They pollinate billions of dollars worth of fruits and vegetables every year.

Think about your own diet today. Have you eaten an apple, a cucumber, some blueberries or almonds? These foods wouldn’t end up on our tables if it weren’t for the work of bees.

DUG is also a big fan of bees. We have a bee policy for our gardens to encourage and maintain healthy hives for those community gardens that are interested in hosting bees. Check it out in our Resources page.

Food in the News

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Posted by Emily Frost, Communications & Programs Intern.

Earlier this season, the Denver Post featured a story about the high price of healthy eating. Touching on food history, environmental influences and the politics of government subsidies, the article explores the complicated reasons influencing the cost of healthy foods, specifically fruits and veggies, and how that translates to one Denver family’s personal experience. The disappointing reality is that

If Martinez wants each member of her household to have one peach, it’ll cost her about $3. If she chooses Kraft macaroni and cheese, she can get 18 servings — with 400 calories and 580 milligrams of sodium in each — for the same price.”

This illustrates perhaps why Americans are falling short of the CDC’s expectations that each American should The Denver Post cites that “only half the recommended servings of dark green vegetables are available”, according to the USDA findings as published in “Health Affairs”, March 2010. These greens were sold at the Fairview Elementary School Garden Harvest consuming two servings of fruits and three of vegetables daily, as reported by NPR. However, it is not just a lack of affordability or accessibility—according to the Post article, America does not actually grow enough fruits and vegetables to meet the 5-a-day goal, making consuming a healthy diet increasingly an issue of availability.

How are Americans responding to growing prices of food and corresponding growing levels of hunger and malnutrition? NPR gives an example in this story that tracks one family’s experience of gathering food from a variety of assistance programs. At the national level, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, offers food stamps to those in need. In addition to using these stamps at grocers, SNAPs can also be used at many local farmers’ markets, increasing access to locally grown healthy food and supporting our local economy. Food Banks provide another option, as do local soup kitchens, for those cobbling together affordable means of feeding themselves and their families. Here in Denver, the SAME Café is a unique restaurant that serves up a fresh, organic meal for donations or volunteer time exchanged in the kitchen, rather than set prices, and believes that everyone, “regardless of economic status, deserves the chance to eat healthy food while being treated with dignity.” 

Of course another supplemental option is growing your own veggies through gardening.  DUG has done plenty of research alongside the Colorado School of Public Health on the benefits of community gardening, specifically. The findings of the “Gardens for Growing Healthy Communities” community-based research initiative include, among other benefits, these facts specifically relating to the articles highlighted in this post: 

  • More than 50% of community gardeners meet national guidelines for fruit and vegetable intake, compared to 25% of non-gardeners.
  • 95% of community gardeners give away some of the produce they grow to friends, family and people in need; 60% specifically donate to food assistance programs.

These children learn first-hand the value of working in community gardens.Additionally, there may be a financial benefit to growing your own grub. Rob Baedeker explores “What’s the Value of home-grown food?” in his piece in the San Francisco Chronicle. One gardener he interviewed found that his family of 5 saved $2000 over one year of home gardening. That gardener and the writer conclude that ultimately, monetary value is only a small part of the worth inherent in growing your own produce. The cultural exchange, first-hand learning, neighborly relationships, physical activity, and practice of living in community are all invaluable parts of the community gardening experience.

Read more about the inherent worth in community gardening, or better yet, get involved yourself! Check out the gardens in your neighborhood and contact your garden leader to get involved, or give us a call at the DUG office (303.292.9900) to explore volunteer opportunities.

Autumn in the Garden

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by Henry Van Dyke

When the frosty kiss of Autumn in the dark
Makes its mark
On the flowers, and the misty morning grieves
Over fallen leaves;
Then my olden garden, where the golden soil
Through the toil
Of a hundred years is mellow, rich, and deep,
Whispers in its sleep.

‘Mid the crumpled beds of marigold and phlox,
Where the box
Borders with its glossy green the ancient walks,
There’s a voice that talks
Of the human hopes that bloomed and withered here
Year by year,–
Dreams of joy, that brightened all the labouring hours,
Fading as the flowers.

Yet the whispered story does not deepen grief;
But relief
For the loneliness of sorrow seems to flow
From the Long-Ago,
When I think of other lives that learned, like mine,
To resign,
And remember that the sadness of the fall
Comes alike to all.

What regrets, what longings for the lost were theirs!
And what prayers
For the silent strength that nerves us to endure
Things we cannot cure!
Pacing up and down the garden where they paced,
I have traced
All their well-worn paths of patience, till I find
Comfort in my mind.

Faint and far away their ancient griefs appear:
Yet how near
Is the tender voice, the careworn, kindly face,
Of the human race!
Let us walk together in the garden, dearest heart,
Not apart!
They who know the sorrows other lives have known
Never walk alone.

Thanks to DUG Board Member John Hershey for passing this along!