On Friday, July 9th 2021, Denver Urban Gardens partnered with Spark the Change Colorado and Major League Baseball for a day of volunteer service at three different DUG gardens to kick off All-Star Week!
DUG hosted more than 70 volunteers at the Horesbarn Community Garden, Morey Middle School Community Garden, and at Delaney Farm. Working together, the groups completed a variety of projects including building a shade pergola, laying down pathways, planting fruit trees, and weeding beds.
Despite scorching temperatures, the day was fun-filled and highly-productive as volunteers came together in service of community and food access. The partnership with Spark the Change Colorado and MLB was a winning combo, for sure!
Images courtesy of Major League Baseball.
Meet the DUG Corps Members
Our first two Corps Members, Anastasia Hill and Eliza Greene, are providing daily ‘boots on the ground’ support for our 180+ gardens. Their work focuses on supporting community-led workdays with extra hands, organizing and leading ‘micro-network’ (clusters of DUG gardens located near one another) educational and social events, and visiting all of the gardens to connect with Garden Leaders and gardeners about their needs, troubleshooting as necessary.
Eliza joins the 2021 DUG Corps with a passion for gardening and community. She grew up around gardening and farming in Massachusetts and worked in landscaping seasonally for many years. Eliza brings her love for digging in the dirt and helping things grow with her to her role at DUG. With a background in sociology and community organizing, she also brings curiosity about the world around her and dedication to making it better. She loves that community gardens are a place of skill-sharing, education, empowering people, and building community resilience.
In her free time, Eliza is most likely going for a walk in nature with her rescue dog Jasper, lost in a good book, or attending a community event.
Meet our Fransisco Cordero Legacy Apprentice
Our inaugural apprentice, Alex Oldham, works closely with our Director of Physical Infrastructure and Community Engagement, Nessa Mogharreban. Under her guidance, Alex is working to learn the ropes of urban garden construction and maintenance. Together, they lead our volunteer workdays, attend to maintenance calls in the garden, and work on new infrastructure projects related to the BII.
Alex is our newest member of the team. He is a very outgoing yet nonchalant person who is easy to connect with. Alex is a natural athlete with a lot of motivation to be in better physical shape and reach higher levels of skill. He loves all kinds of fruit and is trying to add more vegetables to his menu. He grew up doing farm work with his grandfather and is familiar with getting out and doing physical activities. He loves to spend time alone to watch movies or vibe to some music and is a lowkey superhero nerd.
Learn more about Alex in our Faces of DUG project.
Meet our youth green team with Groundwork Denver
Baz, Dante, Greg and leader Magali are part of Groundwork Denver’s program of youth environmentalists, acting as the organization’s task force to implement projects to improve Denver’s urban environment. The principal goals of the Green Team are to prepare youth for educational and career success, encourage them to become engaged members of the community and demonstrate alternative career pathways in fields like natural resources and sustainability.
Under the supervision of our Director of K-12 Education, Rob Payo, the green team works in tandem DUG Corps members to activate underutilized gardens by clearing weeds, laying compost, and repairing plot borders. The green team also maintains our DUG demonstration plot and joins volunteer workdays as needed.
As part of our partnership with Groundwork Denver, the green team is introduced to nutritious cooking through bi-weekly cooking classes at DUG HQ, where they learn how to prepare food that is harvested from the gardens!
DUG is honored to be this week’s 9 News + Kyle Clark’s Word of Thanks recipient!
The Word of Thanks micro-giving campaign brings viewers across Metro Denver together in the spirit of collective fundraising. Every $5 or more that is donated through the campaign helps Denver Urban Gardens provide infrastructure upgrades to existing community gardens and reduce barriers to growing fresh, organic food for metro Denverites.
We work directly with communities to increase access to land, provide resources for people to successfully grow healthy nutritious food, as well as gain resilience for themselves + connect to their communities.
Donations support our new Baseline Infrastructure Initiative (BII), a holistic program centered on establishing and increasing equity across DUG’s entire network of community gardens. The BII covers both physical and human resources to ensure that all 188 of our gardens are resourced at an equitable level to support a thriving community garden producing optimum yield. Read more about our BII work here.
Last year during COVID, we started a virtual Q + A series with our own Senior Education Specialist ‘Jungle Judy’ Elliott to an overwhelmingly positive response! So we’re bringing the series back!
Our live Q + As through Zoom allows you to bring Judy right into your garden to get your gardening questions answered, seek troubleshooting tips, and get best practices for organic gardening in the heat of the summer.
In May, Denver Urban Gardens had the pleasure of coming together as a community to dedicate the new Wonder Garden at Wyatt Academy, located in the Cole neighborhood. The Wonder Garden was funded by Jerry Conover in memorium to his wife, Jaquelyn Wonder.
The dedication party was a wonderful time to celebrate being able to gather again in the garden. Guests (including Wyatt Academy students who stole the show with excitement from the classroom butterfly release!) were treated to mariachi music and delicious local food as the DUG community celebrated the life and impact of Jacquelyn Wonder, as well as witnessed how her legacy will grow with future students experiencing the wonder of gardening.
We caught up with Jerry after the dedication to learn more about his decision to leave a garden legacy in honor of his late wife. Here’s what he had to say:
“The Wonder Garden at Wyatt Academy is such a perfect memorial to my late wife, Jacquelyn Wonder.
Jaquelyn and I met in the late ‘70s. We were both divorced and a mutual friend introduced us. We were married for almost 40 years. She had 3 kids and I have 4, so we have a large combined family with 15 grandkids.
Jacquelyn was a woman who overcame adversity, both in the form of family poverty and illness, and she made it on her own. Education was so important to her. After graduating from Denver’s East High school, she went on to earn her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and had a successful career in teaching and consulting and as an author.
Since we’ve been together, Jacquelyn always loved gardens. We lived in East Denver and gardening was one of her primary hobbies and loves.
When we moved downtown 12 years ago, a condition of our moving was that she had to have a garden. We were fortunate to find a place in LoDo that happened to have a 2,400 square foot deck, which we then made into a rooftop garden. She was able to downsize from a conventional house to more urban living, and still retain the beauty and enjoyment from having a home garden.
In the middle of the city, I have this little enclave of nature right outside my door that has perennials, annuals, trees, and birdfeeders. I wake up to birds singing; it’s a great way to start my day. It’s been a lovely reminder of how much she loved gardening.
When I knew that I wanted to dedicate a community garden in Jacquelyn’s memory, I asked DUG where the best place for us to support a new garden would be.
DUG gave me a list of half a dozen sites. I looked at all of them, and then we went to talk to Andrew and Kate, the directors of Wyatt Academy. It turned out that the timing and school were just right.
Jacquelyn overcame learning disabilities throughout her life and one of her interests was how people learn and how the brain works. The idea of openness and creativity were always themes in her life.
DUG’s model of partnering with schools is really a win-win deal. The educational partnership made that much more sense. Seeing the success of Wyatt Academy really resonated with me. They had just done their goal-setting for the year, and one of their core values for the school was “wonder”- which was serendipitous.
It was DUG’s introduction to the prospect of a garden there that began the journey. I’ve been familiar with the neighborhood for quite a while because it’s close to Manual High School where my own kids attended. The neighborhood has a wonderful history to it.
It’s been an inspiration to work with the school. Their connection with the community is just wonderful. They have a community-based social services center that provides meals, supplies, and assistance to the families of the kids who attend the school and to the community generally. The school has become part of that community in a most effective way. I know Jacquelyn would have loved the site of the garden just as much as I do.
The building process took less than two years. Through our family’s Donor-Advised Fund at the Denver Foundation, I was able to provide the funding for the garden. DUG and Wyatt Academy took charge right off the bat! The short time it took to complete is a tribute to the rapid and nimble response of DUG, the school, and other small charities. The Community Coordinator at Wyatt, Maria Estrada, is an unbelievably talented woman.
Working with the DUG team and all of the school representatives was just a joy for me. It was a pleasure not to be burdened by bureaucracy during the process. Katherine Smith introduced me to the sculptor Peter Durst, whose birdhouse sculptures are now displayed in the garden. The playful nature of his sculptures fits right in with the garden’s theme of wonder and connection to nature. The bird sculptures were created by Joan Walker.
I would love to see the sculptures at the Wonder garden inspire further installations of public art. Denver’s mandate that 2% of the budget goes to public art show how important the arts are to our community. Bringing in three-dimensional art seemed to be a natural next step in a community garden. Finding a way to display art publicly contributes to the fabric of our community.
In 2020, DUG sought feedback from more than 500 stakeholders in order to gain insight into what our community members needed from DUG. The feedback had a common theme: community gardeners and Garden Leaders wanted and needed more of DUG. Our gardeners asked for more support, education, leadership training, community building, and to ensure equity across the network. In response, in 2021 DUG launched our new Baseline Infrastructure Initiative (BII).
BII Success looks like:
All garden plots are fully utilized.
To achieve this outcome, DUG will provide translators and on-the-ground support for plot applications to overcome language and technology barriers, develop and distribute multilingual resources for DUG mentorship and educational programming, recruit representational leadership at all gardens, and provide support for community-building events including through DUG Corps and paid apprentices.
All gardens meet a baseline physical infrastructure standard.
This entails completing regular repairs and improvements to at-need gardens, including providing water access, shade structures, and tool storage. This also looks like delivering resources like compost, seeds, and seedlings, regardless of a garden’s ability to pay.
June 2021 Update
Last year, DUG distributed 1,000 To-Grow Boxes across Metro Denver in response to the pandemic and the need for people to have access to fresh local healthy food.
Read more about our 2020 impact here.
This year, To-Grow Boxes are back, but in a limited quantity–so order yours early!
Each To-Grow box comes with 28 seedlings + 10 seed packets of nutrient-dense plants, including vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Whether you decide to grow directly in the ground, in a raised bed, or in containers, you’ll have enough seeds and seedlings to fill a 10′ x 10′ area.
Our To-Grow Box also come with our Plant Care Guide and DUG-designed plot planting layouts so you can easily plant in both May and again in July for harvest throughout the summer into the fall. Participants also get specialized access within the DUG Network, including growing tips + reminders specific to To-Grow Boxes, and a community circle of people also growing alongside you.
To-Grow Boxes will only be available for contact-less pick up at the DUG office (located within the Posner Center) on Saturday, May 15th from 10am to 1pm. We will not be able to arrange another distribution time, so please only order a box if you or someone you trust is able to pick up your box on May 15th.
Cost per box: $125