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Faces of DUG

Gardening for mental wellbeing

By | Faces of DUG

#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.”

More Faces of DUG

Faces of DUG
November 7, 2020

Gardening for mental wellbeing

“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…
Faces of DUG
August 12, 2020

Teaching the next generation about the magic of gardening

"I believe that every moment is a teaching moment. Getting the kids to see the world in a different way is a fascinating thing. Every time you get just one…
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“It was quarantine and I wanted to take my daughter to experience the outdoors once a day. I went on Google Maps and tried to look for green spaces that…
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“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…

Looking back on a lifetime in the garden

By | Faces of DUG

#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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Marty is a North Denver community and social justice activist and a pioneer of Denver’s urban garden landscape. The first community gardens were started when a group of Hmong women…
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By | Faces of DUG

#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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"I believe that every moment is a teaching moment. Getting the kids to see the world in a different way is a fascinating thing. Every time you get just one…
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"I come from Africa. I like gardening so much because my parents were farmers in my country where I was born and they had a big farm. They taught me…
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“I am from Central Africa. I couldn’t find seeds from my country to grow. I said, “If I cannot find this vegetable I will have to move back to my…
Faces of DUG
October 5, 2020

Building community from the ground up

“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…

Building community from the ground up

By | Faces of DUG

#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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Faces of DUG
October 5, 2020

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“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…
Faces of DUG
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Gardening for mental wellbeing

“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…
Faces of DUG
July 13, 2020

Digging deep into DUG’s roots

Marty is a North Denver community and social justice activist and a pioneer of Denver’s urban garden landscape. The first community gardens were started when a group of Hmong women…
Faces of DUG
October 30, 2020

Looking back on a lifetime in the garden

“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…

Gardening for Resilience

By | Faces of DUG

#11: Meet Lindsay, Manager of Adult Self-Sufficiency Integrated Services (FACE), Johnson Elementary School

“One of the biggest challenges that our community faces is food insecurity, which has only been exacerbated by COVID-19. The funding we received through DUG has drawn us closer as a community. We were able to donate food to 25 of our highest-need families. We’ve been regularly distributing school lunches and weekend food bags to families that can’t leave their homes because they are sick with COVID-19.
With the grant funding from DUG, we employed 3 community gardeners who have all been significantly impacted by loss of work due to COVID and didn’t have money to pay rent. The funding is really helping their income. For a single parent with one child, $250 can pay for a month of groceries. It’s been a great opportunity for the parents to connect with their children, especially during a time when kids are feeling isolated. The parents talk about how much their children have learned from this experience. One little boy has been really into watching the radishes grow. His mom sent me a picture saying, “Oh my gosh, he’s begging me every single day to come to the garden so he can check on his radishes to see if they’re growing.”
All of the families at the Johnson Elementary Community Garden have incredible stories about how the garden supports them. One gardener is a single mom who just moved to the US in January. She was the sole source of income for her son, and then her hours got cut. Another gardener got involved because the school therapist recommended the garden as an activity to help her daughter who was struggling with the school changes due to COVID. The mom has become an avid gardener, and it’s been so cool to develop a trusting relationship with her. Before, even though her family really needed services, she was very hesitant to receive help. Now, she feels comfortable coming to talk to us, and if she needs something, she’ll ask.
It’s so impactful for our community to have access to healthy, nutritious food. In this way, DUG has shown its commitment to the community. To be able to garden with an organization that cares about giving back has been amazing for our community.”

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Faces of DUG
July 20, 2020

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“It was quarantine and I wanted to take my daughter to experience the outdoors once a day. I went on Google Maps and tried to look for green spaces that…
Faces of DUG
October 5, 2020

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“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…
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“When I came back from the Peace Corps, I thought, “we are really in trouble.” We have a system that’s based on fossil fuels and it’s unsustainable. The Senegalese were…
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By | Faces of DUG

#10: Meet Beatrice, Fairview Elementary Community Garden

“I am from Central Africa. I couldn’t find [Amaranth] seeds from my country to grow. I said, “If I cannot find this vegetable I will have to move back to my country.”
One day, I was walking in my neighborhood and saw the plant growing on the street. I pulled it out of the ground, took it home, and planted it in a pot on my porch. It grew so big! I said, “Oh God, thank you!” I let it grow big enough to start producing seeds and I kept them. I walked by the garden one day and asked Miss Judy, “Whose garden is this? I need a place to plant the seeds and grow the vegetables from my country.” She said, “Yes of course! You are welcome to garden here.” I talked to my sister and told her that we have somewhere to garden now.
This garden helps me a lot. I had a stroke in 2018. I mostly grow Butu [Amaranth] in my plot. I cook this because it is healthy for me and my family. You make a sauce out of it with beef, onion, and salt and eat it with rice. I can cook for two days with these leaves. My kids love it, they eat so much! In the supermarket, they don’t sell this vegetable, so this is the only way I can have it.
I have 7 kids: 6 girls and 1 boy. My youngest baby is 12 years old. My kids go to school here. One of my girls finished college. My kids eat a lot! If I go shopping for food at the supermarket, it costs a lot of money and the food is gone in two days. They say, “Oh mommy I am hungry!” If I cook this, my kids are full and don’t ask for more food. They say, “My stomach is full, I don’t want anymore!” That is good!”

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June 22, 2020

Gardening through a lifetime

"I come from Africa. I like gardening so much because my parents were farmers in my country where I was born and they had a big farm. They taught me…
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October 23, 2020

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“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…
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Looking back on a lifetime in the garden

“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…
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September 15, 2020

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“One of the biggest challenges that our community faces is food insecurity, which has only been exacerbated by COVID-19. The funding we received through DUG has drawn us closer as…

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By | Faces of DUG

#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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November 7, 2020

Gardening for mental wellbeing

“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…
Faces of DUG
August 6, 2020

Sharing knowledge and healing in gardens

“When I came back from the Peace Corps, I thought, “we are really in trouble.” We have a system that’s based on fossil fuels and it’s unsustainable. The Senegalese were…
Faces of DUG
October 5, 2020

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“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…
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June 22, 2020

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"I come from Africa. I like gardening so much because my parents were farmers in my country where I was born and they had a big farm. They taught me…

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By | Faces of DUG

#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.”

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September 4, 2020

Creating a piece of home in the garden

“I am from Central Africa. I couldn’t find seeds from my country to grow. I said, “If I cannot find this vegetable I will have to move back to my…
Faces of DUG
October 30, 2020

Looking back on a lifetime in the garden

“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…
Faces of DUG
August 12, 2020

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"I believe that every moment is a teaching moment. Getting the kids to see the world in a different way is a fascinating thing. Every time you get just one…
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"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…

Teaching the next generation about the magic of gardening

By | Faces of DUG

#7: Meet Peg, Youth Educator at Fairview Elementary Community Garden

“I believe that every moment is a teaching moment. Getting the kids to see the world in a different way is a fascinating thing. Every time you get just one kid that asks you an extra question, it is an amazing feeling. I believe that when you show a child something, and you see the lightbulb go off, your job is done. I know then that I have exposed them to something new and that they will pass that knowledge along and build on it. I like their curiosity and enthusiasm, but I like their wariness, too. Often, when I show them a vegetable plant, that may have been the first time they have ever seen it before.

Once, I brought some purple potatoes from my home garden to show my class, and one boy looked at one, turned it around and around in his hands, and asked me, “How did you do that? How did you make the inside purple?” When I told him that it grew like that, he looked at me like I was crazy. He inspected the potato to see if I had injected the color into it. He was very wary of a purple potato.

I have the kids sit in the garden and just listen to it. A garden is so noisy when people aren’t talking. You’ve got your birds, crickets, and bees. It’s really quite loud if you take the time to listen. You have to tailor your teaching to fit what each child’s strengths are, to what they can each personally get out of gardening. You see their potential and encourage them to be their best selves. I hate when kids have a question about how the world works, and both of you know that their answer is how the world really should be, but that isn’t the reality. When this happens, I prefer to tell them, “Yes, you’re right. That is how the world should be. Now let’s go make it happen!”

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Finding connection with food

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Gardening for mental wellbeing

“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…
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“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…
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August 12, 2020

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"I believe that every moment is a teaching moment. Getting the kids to see the world in a different way is a fascinating thing. Every time you get just one…

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By | Faces of DUG

#6: Meet Sharona, Garden Leader at Ruby Hill Community Garden

“When I came back from the Peace Corps, I thought, “we are really in trouble.” We have a system that’s based on fossil fuels and it’s unsustainable. The Senegalese were living so close to the ground. They’re farmers at heart. When the rains came and it was time to start farming, they had a skip in their step. I felt more secure knowing where my food was coming from. When I saw the food insecurities here, I knew I needed to work with people on how to plant their own food.

This is such a vital resource that we need to be passing on to our new generations by making our food systems local. I’m still a student. I use the garden as a laboratory and a living library of knowledge. It’s trial and error every year. When new gardeners come in I think, “oh good, converting more people!” It’s been such a treat to see people become gardeners. Even in their 2nd year, it’s like a little jungle in their 12×12 plot.

The garden is a hub for building community. The garden is like a plant: you plant the seed and then the roots just get deeper and more established. It’s taking off on its own. Every garden has its own little culture. Multiple languages are spoken in the garden and it’s bringing people together. So many friendships have grown out of this garden, lifelong friendships. This is how we found each other.

I’m trying to foster “from seed to medicine.” We turned two plots into medicinal garden plots and one plot is donated to pollinators. It’s helping us bridge a gap of what our ancestors have always known. They were plant people, hunter-gatherers. That’s how we got here today. I want to help people reconnect with that again. DUG is a gift to our community. DUG says to us, “here is your gift, now go play with it!”

More Faces of DUG

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November 7, 2020

Gardening for mental wellbeing

“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…
Faces of DUG
September 4, 2020

Creating a piece of home in the garden

“I am from Central Africa. I couldn’t find seeds from my country to grow. I said, “If I cannot find this vegetable I will have to move back to my…
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August 28, 2020

Finding purpose in growing and sharing food

"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…
Faces of DUG
September 15, 2020

Gardening for Resilience

“One of the biggest challenges that our community faces is food insecurity, which has only been exacerbated by COVID-19. The funding we received through DUG has drawn us closer as…