Every year, more than 600,000 pounds of food are grown in DUG gardens, with around 10% (or 60,000) pounds donated to local food banks and community organizations. Additionally, for the last 23 years, DUG has distributed tens of thousands of free and low-cost seeds and seedlings every spring to metro Denver residents to be able to grow their own food through our Grow A Garden program.
DUG is cooking up virtual fun with Slow Food Denver!
This fall, we have been piloting new online cooking classes in partnership with Slow Food Denver as part of our Healthy Food for Denver Kid’s grant.
For four weeks, we supplied 139 3rd and 4th grade students at Fairview Elementary, Swansea Elementary, and Maxwell Elementary with the ingredients and tools needed to cook fresh, made-from-scratch meals at home using produce sourced from local farms. Each child participating in the program received produce for the week to feed a family of 6.
In partnership with Slow Food Denver, we supported teachers as they delivered virtual cooking instructions (in both English and Spanish!) for how to prepare four different meals, including seasonal vegetable soup, root veggie tacos, braised greens with pasta, and pupusas with curtido sauce!
The classes were a hit and we’re currently undergoing project evaluation as we prepare for the next round of classes!
Our Virtual Cooking Classes by the Number
#15: Meet Anna, DUG program intern, Bruce Randolph Community Garden
“My family had a garden growing up in southern Louisiana. I Ioved harvesting, watering, and watching our plants grow since I was a little girl. In college, I built raised beds and grew most of my own produce. It was more of a means of survival at that time in my life, but it turned out that gardening was my refuge, as well. It was a time for me to think, be still, listen to music, get my hands dirty, and witness life. The resiliency of plants has always been a motivator for me to keep going, even when life gets really tough. I am part of a DUG garden now, and I absolutely love it! I live close by, so it has been so nice to get off work and ride my bike, look at my babies grow, and be a part of a group of people looking to make a positive change in the world. It is beautiful.
I found out about DUG a few years ago, did some volunteer work, and interned in the spring of 2020. It was life-changing. Even in the midst of COVID when the city shutting down, I was so honored to be part of a team that pivoted to increase food access across the Denver area. My brain works in the way that I always want things totally figured out, in order, and planned out to the tiniest detail. It was such a challenge for me personally to learn to look beyond the plan, learn that there are so many people and organizations looking to impact change in similar ways, and realize that big things can happen when you let go and trust.
I’ve always dealt with a lot of anxiety and depression in my life, and that only got worse for me throughout my career. Gardening has always been my safe space. A time just for me. It has taught me to slow down, to be comfortable doing one thing at a time, to look, listen, and be thankful for every second I have on this earth. It has taught me to be okay with slow progress, to look for the little joys in life, and to celebrate growth in all shapes and forms. My experiences with gardening have affected me so much that I decided to make a big career change because of the way connecting with the earth made me feel. I now work in horticulture and floral design and feel so honored to get to give back to a planet that gives so much to me on a daily basis.”
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#13: Meet Judy, Senior Education Specialist at DUG
“Although my mother wasn’t an active gardener, I think that sometimes interests skip generations. I remember my grandmother saving seeds of her treasured cleome (we called them ‘spider flowers’) whose pods we would lovingly ‘pop,’ and if we opened them at just the right time, you could stick them on your nose and create wonderful garden ‘creatures.’ She was a marvelous cook & baker and she shared stories of bringing special flours and seeds from Russia to use in her culinary dishes and share with others.
Working in the garden with her, I became enamored with how she carefully created specific areas to walk so as not to impact the soil. From that moment, a special seed was planted in me to learn as much as I could about tending the soil, realizing the amazing treasures of food, herbs, and flowers it yielded. I was just grateful to take part in the stewardship process.
Being involved with DUG for over 20 years, I have quietly listened as people from diverse countries shared their stories of bringing their own treasured seeds to plant, nourish both body and soul, and to help us understand that in our differences, there is a strong opportunity to learn, grow, and appreciate our diverse talents.
I’ve had the privilege of working with amazing staff, educating children and adults, leading the Master Composter program, and watching the seasons’ ebb and flow. As time goes by, I am inspired by the wisdom of the Earth, gathering all together to pause in wonder at the unfolding of each sunrise and its new possibilities for quiet reflection and growth. DUG is a web of interconnected voices, more than individual gardens: each voice giving strength to our vision of community, of strength in diversity, of sharing the stories of our home.”
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#14: Meet Talia, Lowry Family Community Garden
“I signed up for a community garden plot at a DUG garden before I ever heard Daniel’s name. I was excited to grow things and put down roots, as I had just moved back to Denver. When I met Daniel, I found out that he was a super-gardener. On our third date, I asked him to help me in my garden. He humored me while I put random seeds in the ground. I had to leave town, and he asked if he could take care of my plot for me. When I came back, he had cleared out all the seeds and replaced them with seasonally-appropriate starts. And so began our gardening courtship.
Every week, we went to that garden and tended the plants, and our relationship grew. Gardening turned out to be a way for us to date. Our relationship moved pretty quickly. We were engaged within five months of meeting. We spent the whole summer gardening together. Those first five months revolved around gardening.
In September, Dan told me we needed to go to the garden to harvest our watermelon. We got there, and I ran off to start harvesting. He called me over, “Babe come here! You have to see this!” I came running, thinking he had found a squash we might have missed. He turned around with a ring in his hand and proposed. It was the perfect proposal for us because we grew our love in our DUG garden. We were even featured in the New York Times’ Wedding Section!
Over the years, we’ve grown thousands of pounds of food in DUG gardens. It has nurtured both our bellies and our hearts. Our family has grown to include two kids who love picking food in the garden and eating it right away. In the beginning, growing food was just for fun, but as I tasted how amazing food is when you grow it yourself, I don’t buy what I can grow in-season. We also pickle and preserve our harvest. I had been so oblivious to the seasonality of food before I started gardening. I can’t imagine my life now without it!
I learned how to garden in a DUG community garden. I would’ve never had that opportunity otherwise. DUG offers everyone in Denver a chance to engage with soil and understand the food lifecycle. What DUG does is essential, and I don’t think the community appreciates it as much as they should.”
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#12: Meet Meredith, Sunshine Community Garden
“I began gardening in my backyard and fell in love with the process of watching things miraculously grow out of the earth. As a dietitian, I love to eat good food to keep my body healthy, and there is nothing better than eating the food you grew yourself! Working for WIC, I had seen community gardens run in partnership with local WIC offices, so when I was approached at Jeffco to help manage and coordinate the start of a community garden onsite, I didn’t hesitate to accept the challenge. I helped start the Sunshine Community Garden in 2018 and had a garden plot for the first two years. Now, my time spent in the garden is dedicated to helping others, from teaching them how to manage our compost pile to how to pull up goat heads from our pathways.
DUG was instrumental in making the Sunshine Community Garden a reality. We knew we wanted a community garden onsite with the Jeffco WIC office and the Jeffco Head Start preschool to engage and serve the families who are at our campus. It was when we partnered with DUG that our dreams began to turn into actions! Their fantastic staff helped us acquire grant funding and coordinate volunteers. DUG provided expert design and project management to help us break ground and get our garden built. They helped us reach out to the families on campus and in the surrounding communities to invite them to join our garden.
Now, they attend our garden advisory committee meetings, supply seeds and seedlings through their Grow a Garden program, and guide everything from plot planning, composting, and communicating with a diverse group of gardeners down to how to engage young gardeners. Our garden community wouldn’t be as strong without the support of DUG!
Being part of a community garden has given me a platform for learning, sharing knowledge, supporting others, and working hard for what I believe is right. I’ve made friends with my gardeners and am so happy to see them in the garden and chat about their favorite tomato variety or what insect might be eating their plants. My gardeners were some of the first people outside of my family I interacted with after COVID forced us to work from home in March. I showed up in my mask, ready to serve them, welcome them, and hand out seeds and seedlings. The garden has been a place of community in the past, and this year has challenged us in building community in the absence of garden gatherings. Yet we have managed to build something, and it grows and towers with its beauty.”
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#11: Meet Lindsay, Manager of Adult Self-Sufficiency Integrated Services (FACE), Johnson Elementary School
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#10: Meet Beatrice, Fairview Elementary Community Garden
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#9: Meet Melinda, Garden Leader at Golden Community Garden
“I think in so many ways the Master Community Gardener program was just what I needed. It really pushed me and challenged me because of the give-back hours; both building gardens and teaching courses totally put me outside of my box because I haven’t ever considered myself a teacher.
When you teach someone else, then you take that knowledge in a different way than you would if you had memorized it or heard it from someone else. It was both fun and scary. To have that little push was really important to feel proud of myself. You think, ‘I shouldn’t have put those limits on myself.’
I run the donation plots at the Golden Community Garden, which is probably one of the larger donation zones in Denver. We have 15 beds for donation only. I think last year we donated like 700 pounds of food. We’re all just in it together to bring some healthy food to people who may not otherwise get it.
That’s one of the biggest reasons why I love gardening. The community and relationship building–and sharing all this wonderful knowledge with others. My daughter comes to the garden with me almost every day and she and I will just snack on snap peas and green beans while we’re harvesting. This is a place of peace for her too. She likes being here just as much as I do. We have the greatest chats and she’ll give me one of her air pods and we’ll listen to music together.
It just feels good. It feels right, and to be able to serve in this way is just an honor for me. I love it.”
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#8: Meet Michaely, Beeler St. Community Garden
“My favorite part of being in the garden is being able to see the vegetables grow. We’re growing tomatoes, cucumber, and on the back there’s broccoli. And we’re also growing radishes, peppers, and onions. These radishes are Japanese radishes- they are very spicy. And the tomatoes are different because these ones are the bigger ones. Yeah, my favorite are the tomatoes. The ‘Sweet 100’ tomatoes.
We’ve got calipers. This is for measuring, like, the peppers and the tomatoes. You can see how tall they are. We used to have marigolds, but they died because they didn’t have enough sun. So what we saw was that the number was very big with the ones with fertilizer.
I’ve been seeing a lot of differences in the vegetables. And it’s very fun how the vegetables are different. Like with fertilizer, I’ve seen that they’re like, bigger, fatter, and without it, they’re a little bit more smaller. We weighed the peppers, and they were heavier than without fertilizer.”