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Welcome 2024 DUG Corps!

By News

We are thrilled to welcome our newest team members to the DUG team, our DUG Corps members through AmeriCorps! While they’ve only just started their year with us, they are truly making an impact. From promoting access to culturally-relevant seeds for our gardeners to spearheading workshops and community classes, they are diving in.

Learn more about them below!

Delanie Baumgartner

Food Access DUG Corps Member

My name is Delanie, and I’m one of the DUG Corps Members for this season! I’m originally from Michigan and graduated from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (Go Blue!) where I studied urban planning with a focus on sustainable development. My previous work heavily focused on broadening food access and eliminating food insecurity on college campuses, and I am extremely eager to bring the knowledge I gained from those roles and my coursework into this season! I have a heartfelt belief that access to healthy and nourishing food is a human right, not a privilege and I cannot wait to help provide that for the people of Denver! In my time outside of DUG, you can find me knitting up a storm of hats, baking one too many baked goods, or biking around the park in my cruiser. I’m excited to be a part of the DUG network that connects people to gardens all around the city and provides access to those as eager as I am to get gardening!

Max Gulliver

Community Events & Education DUG Corps Member

Hi, I’m Max! I have lived & gardened here in Colorado my whole life. After earning a master’s degree in Sustainable Food Systems last year, I’ve been looking for ways to make a positive impact in my home state. My food journey began in restaurants and has led me to work in vineyards, wineries, organic farms, landscaping/edible gardening, food retail, and food policy. These days, I’m passionate about food, wine, gardening, cooking and baking, canning and preservation, fermentation, and just about anything else garden or food-related. In my free time, I’m an amateur birder and I love exploring the amazing world of Denver’s parks and diverse ecosystems. I am thrilled to be part of the DUG team, helping to grow Denver’s beautiful garden spaces and bring together our communities.

Nick Hinckley

Garden Maintenance & Support DUG Corps Member

Bio coming soon!

Eve Zook

Volunteer Workdays DUG Corps Member

Hi my name is Eve Zook! I was born and raised in Colorado Springs. I attended the University of Colorado Denver and earned a Geography degree with an emphasis in environment, society and sustainability. After my studies I moved to France for over a year and attended the American University of Paris where I studied French. During my year in France I visited eleven countries! In my free time I enjoy gardening, watching movies and exploring my neighborhood. I am so excited to be a part of the DUG team!

Want to learn more about what our DUG Corps team is up to? Follow us on Instagram for periodic updates! 

Growing a Sense of Self in the Garden

By Faces of DUG, posts

Meet LT, educator, inspiring creator, and Youth Education mentee.  

 

Recently, our Youth Education Department partnered with Urban Peak, a Denver-based nonprofit dedicated to ending youth houselessness in Colorado through housing assistance and paid mentorship experiences. They partner with organizations that give their clients job skills that can be utilized in their careers. DUG’s partnership provided our mentees with knowledge on plant propagation and care that could be utilized in a horticulture career pathway. Our primary mentee, a young man named LT, worked alongside our educators to cultivate two sensory plots and one food-producing plot at our Fairview Community Garden throughout the spring and summer of 2023.

As we worked side-by-side with him, his passion for caring for this magical place that he helped create was palpable. With his trademark thoughtfulness and delicate touch, he worked to care for compacted soil, routinely watered the parched plants, and relayed his teachings in beautifully written essays. His dedication to the land, the plants, and the people that we gardened alongside with exceeded our expectations. With a remarkable ability to empathize, he viewed even the weeds that we had spent hours plucking from our plots as having a purpose. In one of his written reflections on a day in the garden, he wrote “Weeds are all unique just like every other plant”. What had started as a paid mentorship in creating and maintaining sensory gardens evolved into a point of pride and introspection for LT.  

At the end of the program, we presented his inspiring words at our annual Gather Round event. Despite his hatred of having his photo taken, he watched himself on-screen grinning from ear to ear. “Being involved in this organization, it really gives me higher hopes. This is people helping other people…if we can get more organizations like this out there, I feel like the future will be so much brighter”. 

As the summer wore on and fall began to rear its head, we prepared for our season and partnership to come to its natural end. While every growing season presents us with moments of reflection and learning, this one felt especially enriching. Not only had we watched the countless zinnias and marigolds LT had taken such gentle care of bloom into a magnificent flurry of colors, but we also witnessed the self-determination of not only a brilliant gardener but a brilliant individual. 

Want to get involved with our Youth Education team through volunteering, mentorship, or supporting our school-based community gardens? Learn more on our website.

A New Year Welcomes New Staff (and Promotions)!

By News

As we ring in 2024, we are delighted to announce several exciting staff changes at DUG. These changes reflect the growth and maturing of the organization as well as the high-quality work our exceptional team does every day to cultivate food, community, and climate resilience on a human scale.

Amy Daly – Senior Director of External Affairs

Amy will oversee DUG’s development (fundraising) and marketing/communications teams. Amy brings years of experience leading both functions at some of Denver’s greatest organizations including Next50, Project Angel Heart and Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Denver. In addition to all of her other responsibilities, she’ll be bringing DUG’s individual giving to life, inviting our broader community to support our work through monthly or yearly contributions as well as legacy gifts. Amy reports to Linda Appel Lipsius, Executive Director.

Kristi Hatakka – Compost Manager

Kristi is a Garden Leader at Greenway Community Garden and a Community Composter (formerly a Master Composter). She came to DUG in 2023 to support DUG’s compost education efforts as Denver’s Pay-as-you-throw compost program came online. In this new role, Kristi will continue supporting the Community Composter Training Program and will continue to elevate composting education and communications at DUG. Kristi reports to “Jungle” Judy Elliott, Community Education Director.

Taylor Kibble – Garden Projects Manager

Taylor came to DUG as a DUG Corps Member in the class of 2022. She stayed on as Physical Infrastructure Coordinator throughout 2023, implementing our HDR grant which installed sustainability features at 20 DUG gardens, leading workdays, and answering garden requests for maintenance and improvements. In her new role, she’ll continue to define what a DUG workday looks like, set procedures for responding to garden requests and needs, and welcome and train a 2024 DUG Corps Member. Taylor is on the Gardens Team and reports to Lara Fahnestock, Director of Garden Operations.

Niko Kirby – Director of Education Strategy & Engagement

Niko has been with DUG for 3.5 years as Director of Marketing & Communications. When we identified a juicy opportunity to do more with our education and skill-building across all programs, Niko was the perfect fit. This role combines Niko’s demonstrated comms prowess with her years of prior experience designing curricula. Niko reports to Linda Appel Lipsius, Executive Director.

Marisa Loury – Volunteer Projects Manager

Marisa also came to DUG as a 2022 DUG Corps Member. She stayed on in 2023 as Volunteer Coordinator to refine and enhance DUG’s volunteer program, giving greater structure and support to her teammates and the volunteer community. Notably, Marisa also launched the long-anticipated SPOT (special projects) volunteer program which activates community members for ongoing engagement with DUG. It’s been a runaway success! This year, she’ll onboard a new volunteer management software and continue to build out the overall program. Marisa is on the Development Team and reports to Nessa Mogharreban, Director of Corporate Partnerships.

Osiris Mancera – Bilingual Marketing Manager

Osiris will be overseeing external marketing and communications to support the success of all DUG programs. Osiris brings years of experience managing digital marketing with a sustainability and climate action lens as well as in academic translation inspired by their cultural upbringing. While newer to the world of gardening, Osiris is eager to get their hands dirty and learn all that a gardening season has to offer. Osiris reports to Amy Daly, Senior Director of External Affairs.

Sue Mathison – IT & Salesforce Manager

Sue’s been working with us throughout 2023 in support of our Salesforce/Data project and will now be officially joining the DUG staff. Sue’s experience with IT and systems management combined with her years of Garden Leadership at Samuels Elementary makes her a one-of-a-kind solution for DUG as we optimize our systems and double down on our commitment to highly responsive support for our gardeners and garden leaders. Sue is on the Operations Team and reports to Brit Pimentel, Director of Operations.

Daniel Maynard – Office Coordinator

Many of you have had the pleasure of interacting with Daniel on the phone or as you walk into the office. As he comes on as a full-time staff member, Daniel will continue to be “the face of DUG,” while diving deeper into operations and program support. He’ll be on-site at all Friday workdays too! Daniel is on the Operations Team and reports to Brit Pimentel, Director of Operations.

Shay Moon – Food Access Manager

Shay came to DUG in 2023 to support our Grow a Garden Program and Plant Sales. The year saw exciting growth in both programs in terms of people served and sophistication. Grow a Garden added a mentorship program and Culturally Inclusive Seeds were added to our overall “resource” offer. As Food Access Manager, Shay will continue to support all of DUG’s Food Access Programming while refining and expanding our reach. Shay is on the Food Access Team and reports to Linda Appel Lipsius, Executive Director.

Justin Evans – Advisory Council

Justin Evans is an expert on using data to generate growth. He is the author of the forthcoming The Little Book of Data: The Nine Ways We Unleash Our Data Superpowers(Harper Leadership), and is the leader of award-winning innovation teams that access companies’ untapped data and create value. Currently the Head of Analytics & Insights for Samsung Ads, a division of Samsung, Justin’s team has generated hundreds of millions in revenue by helping Fortune 100 brands achieve success in streaming TV advertising, using data and insights. Before Samsung, Justin held roles at Effectv, a division of Comcast, where he supported a $2.5 billion advertising business with responsibilities spanning analytics and product management; as well as the Nielsen Company, and at venture capital-backed startups. A frequent conference speaker and regular contributor to industry publications, Justin serves as an advisor to Infosum, a data “cleanroom” technology company, and Denver Urban Gardens, a nonprofit dedicated to better local outcomes in food, community, and climate. Justin received a Master of Business Administration degree from NYU Stern and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia University. He lives in Brooklyn.

Please join us in congratulating all of these incredible changes at DUG as we start the new year. We are beyond thrilled about the immense changes and growth to come with the support of our team.

Meet the rest of our team on the DUG Meet Our Team Page!

Climate Action Through Trash

By Faces of DUG

Meet Christi, Master Composter, entrepreneur, and climate activist. 

Christi Turner is the founder of Scraps, a compost company born in 2017 as a result of the frustration of not having adequate composting services here in Denver. 

Scraps launched in 2017 as a solution for Denver’s apartment and condominium dwellers to compost their organic food waste and reduce their carbon footprint by keeping it out of landfills. A year before, in 2016, Christi joined DUG’s Master Composter program and trained with Judy Elliott on everything compost. 

We visited Christi at her ‘mini-farm’ homestead to learn more about the beginnings and mission of Scraps. This interview has been condensed for clarity. 

Why did you decide to join the Master Composter (MC) program? 

I wanted a foundation in composting as I was getting ready to launch Scraps. I knew I had to work on a project [as part of the MC program] so it was a motivation because I knew there was no backing down. I thought if I announce it here it is real. I wanted to understand more about the process of composting, how easy it is, how scalable it is, how accessible, and how it could be a practice applied to residential and commercial sectors. I was motivated by the idea of providing a service to a market that wasn’t serviced and [through the MC program] wanted to gain baseline knowledge of what happens when you take organic matter and mix it up in a way that it decomposes into finished compost.

Why composting?

Learning about the detrimental effects of landfills, how much food waste ends up there, and how backward policies were here in Denver, which are finally turning around, made me want to work toward changing the system. 

I learned to make a very basic compost pile as a Peace Corps volunteer in Madagascar, one of the most biodiverse places in the world. It was an easy, low-impact, restorative project in the village where I was living, which was heavily impacted by unsustainable forestry, brush fires, intensive agriculture, and other degradation, not to mention an influx of non-organic trash as globalization brought in more manufactured items and processed foods. 

When I moved to Colorado to do my masters, the condo complex where I was renting a room in Boulder County had composting – so I had this idea that people composted here, that it’s easy. Then I moved to Denver and was surprised to not have access to this service – and the general thought was it’s impossible to provide composting to apartments or condominiums, which seemed ridiculous to me.

So then you launched Scraps in 2017, how did you go from Master Composter to entrepreneur? 

In 2017 I was working at the Alliance Center getting a lot of exposure to local and regional policy, including the differences between Denver and Boulder in the realm of waste diversion,  and I found myself scheming – almost obsessing – on how to address this issue of increasing access to composting at a local scale.

I went to the US Composting Council Conference in January of 2017 and I told myself if this conference goes well, I’m going to do this. I had been working on this idea for more than two years and it was time to do it or drop it because it was starting to take up a lot of space in my mind. I was super inspired by the conference, met a lot of great people, and in fact, that was the conference when Finian Makepeace announced he was going to do the Kiss the Ground film. 

I returned to Denver and gave my notice at work to focus on launching Scraps. That was in February and we didn’t start our first route until June, in the meantime we were setting up a website and drumming up hype, and we did a small crowdfunding campaign and raised about $5k to bolster the personal money I had scraped together.  

How did you get your first clients? 

Initially, we focused on apartment buildings and condos around Denver but our first customer actually ended up being a restaurant. It took a long time to convince the first building manager to let their residents compost with us, on a pilot basis. Back then we would field so many questions from HOAs or building managers, who basically worried we might dump a pile of rotting food on their doorstep or something – and we were like no, here’s what we mean by composting, we’ll take that material away and keep it out of your trash. Just a lot of basic education on what a compost pickup service is.  In the meantime, we had small restaurants, cafés, and offices that wanted to compost with us, who were actually facing similar barriers as the residents of multifamily buildings.  At the time the city’s program for single-family homes had not rolled out city-wide, so in the first year or so we had about 100 single-family homes and townhomes join us. 

So you started with trikes and now use trucks, how was that transition? 

Yes, we were a bike-and-trike-based hauler! The idea was to be carbon-neutral and low-impact by using bikes, but we hit a capacity limit as we expanded. The first real expansion happened in 2018 and I was really resistant at first. I had been car-less myself for like 6 years, a huge proponent of more sustainable transit – and also I didn’t know anything about owning and operating trucks, hiring and managing drivers, running a fleet. But it was becoming surprisingly hard to maintain and manage our small fleet of trikes as well. They are not designed for high mileage, and we were doing 30 miles a day or more on some routes. If you get a flat, which is often!, it is not like you can call AAA and get it towed, and you may be stuck for hours trying to get a trike mechanic to you. Plus you have to empty up to 500 lbs of full bins just to turn the trike on its back to change the tire. It was also really hard to get insurance, which we needed as we grew as a small business. It was getting to the point of disrupting our growing operations.  Plus we were getting requests for services further and further outside of where it was feasible or safe to pedal a trike around, in a city where safe bike lanes only exist in certain areas.

At some point in our second winter, I remember pedaling through a whiteout downtown, with freezing hands, foggy glasses, downhill, stuck in traffic, and thinking, what am I doing? And how could I ask someone to work for me and do this? It just isn’t something you can safely do outside year-round in our climate. It’s bonkers to think of some of the questionable situations I and my earliest Scraps pedalers got ourselves into. 

Composting awareness has grown, what is next for Scraps and other composting programs?

I feel like we finally hit a tipping point of education, awareness, and enthusiasm. Fast forward to now, especially with the Waste No More ordinance coming online in January, which will require all businesses in the City and County of Denver to compost as well as to recycle, and we are fielding inquiries from property managers, building owners, and HOAs on an ongoing basis. And these days we do not just individual residential accounts, but full building contracts, and even full portfolio contracts. Things have really shifted in a positive direction.

Scraps continues to grow while keeping true to its mission and values to be a climate-forward organization in Colorado. Scraps now services not just multifamily buildings, but downtown office buildings, schools of all types, restaurants and food halls, Denver-based food producers like Leprino and Polidori, corporate campuses like Google, federal campuses like NREL, retailers like Patagonia, even national franchises like Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, Sweetgreen, Snooze, and more. Their service is now available throughout the greater Denver Metro. Christi and her team of eight Scraps employees remain committed to providing the most effective, most reliable composting service in the region, especially as policies like Waste No More help push the Front Range into a new and promising paradigm of waste diversion.

Interested in learning more? Explore the Community Composter Training Program webpage.

Learn more about composting at one of our upcoming Composting Workshops!

Photo of a GrowOya watering pot underground being used

25 Gifts that Support Companies Doing Good (2023 Holiday Gift Guide)

By News
Photo of a GrowOya Watering Pot in a garden

The holiday season is a time for connecting with loved ones and making memories that last for years to come. At DUG, one of our pillars is ‘Community’ which we thought was a perfect theme for this year’s Holiday Gift Guide. What better way to nourish our community than by supporting it?

Here is our specially curated list of 25 gifts from brands we love (including us!) that make a difference and reflect the values we hold dear. Each one of them is made at a company that cares about the impact they have through their products and we hope you love them as much as we do.

Happy holidays!

Gifts for the Avid Gardener

1. Canvas Tote from Denver Urban Gardens ($20)

We love this tote because it’s made with 100% organic cotton and is perfect for holding all of your gardening tools. Your gift recipient is sure to love all the pockets and the beautiful design!

2. Watering Pot from GrowOya ($34.95 – $54.95)

This watering pot saves garden watering up to 70% and is made from a porous clay formula. Imagine placing this in your garden amongst your gorgeous flowers this spring!

3. Calming Skin Creme from Juniperseed Mercantile ($17 – $30)

This moisturizing skin cream is packaged in a reusable and recyclable container and features skin-loving avocado and apricot oil. It’s the perfect way to nourish skin after a long day in the sun (and in the dirt!).

4. Plastic Plus Plan from Ridwell (starts at $18)

If you’re in the Denver Metro Area, this is the perfect solution to responsibly disposing of hard-to-recycle plastics. Not only are you keeping plastic from the landfill, but you’re practicing earth-loving values that transfer to the garden too!

Gifts for Ultimate Comfort

5. Beanie from Denver Urban Gardens ($30)

Our locally sourced signature beanie comes in various colors and features post-consumer plastic and vegan leather. Stay warm all winter long and support the good work we do year-round!

6. Botanical Art Notecard Set from Botanical Interest ($13.99)

This beautiful notecard set is printed on FSC-certified paper and is wrapped in compostable packaging. This is the ideal gift for the romantic who can spend hours sitting on the porch writing letters to loved ones – how sweet!

7. Body Care Bundle by EarthLinks ($55)

This beautifully curated bundle is handcrafted from locally harvested beeswax and includes a rich oil content recipe for optimal moisturizing. Care for your skin the best way you can and support an organization working to transform lives!

8. Organic Hot Teas from Teatulia Organic Teas ($19.95 – $21.95)

Not only are these teas delicious and soothing, but they’re also packaged plastic-free in paper tea bags. Plus, Teatulia is B Corp, Rain Forest Alliance, and Fair Trade™ Certified so you know you can trust them to do what’s right!

Did you know DUG’s Executive Director, Linda, is the co-founder of Teatulia? 

The Perfect Stocking Stuffers

9. Sticker from Denver Urban Gardens ($4)

Our stickers are high-quality and die-cut with beautiful imagery. They’re the perfect add-on to your water bottle, favorite notebook, or wheelbarrow!

10. Herb Variety Pack from MASA Seed Foundation ($4)

Their seed packets are rigorously selected heirloom and traditional food plant varieties that are adaptive to climate shifts and Denver’s sturdy Front Range soils. This bundle comes with various herbs, including santo cilantro and lemon bergamot. You won’t go wrong picking one (or two) packets for stocking stuffer additions!

11. Steeped Coffee 5 Pack from Unravel Coffee ($16)

This two-stitch blend features Colorado roasted and nitro-sealed coffee packs perfect for having your coffee on the go. Plus, the packaging is compostable!

12. Plantable Pencils – Herb Edition from Sprout Pencils ($11.99)

These biodegradable and high-quality graphite pencils bundle all your favorites: Basil, Rucola, Parsley, Sage, and Thyme seeds. These are the perfect stocking stuffer for kids!

Gifts over $100

13. Birdies 6-in-1 Raised Garden Bed from Denver Urban Gardens ($150)

These incredible garden beds are made with cold-roiled galvanized steel and feature a high-quality and durable Aluzinc coating. Plus, DUG sells them at a reduced price so you get a great gift and save some money too!

14. Smart Standard Growframe from modern sprout ($219)

These incredible frames feature full-spectrum LED light so your plants can thrive in your home. They’re also proudly made in the USA and include a smart app to make growing even easier!

15. Olivewood Root Salad Bowl from Verve Culture ($198)

This gorgeous salad bowl is artisan made from sustainably sourced Italian olivewood which gives each piece its unique finish. This gift is perfect for the friend who’s always hosting or makes an incredible fresh salad in the summertime!

16. Women’s Re-Tool Hybrid Pullover Fleece from Patagonia ($269)

This fleece pullover is made from recycled polyester, making it light on your footprint but incredibly warm on frosty days. It’s also made in a Fair Trade Certified™ factory!

17. Pinecones & Butterflies Luxe Faux Fur Blanket from Parks Project ($150)

This stylish blanket comes with its own carrying case (pictured above) and is made from 100% recycled polyester polar fleece. It’s perfect for rainy day reading, delicious outdoor picnics, and more!

Gifts for the Traveling Enthusiast

18. Tote Bag from Alvéole ($16)

This lightweight tote is made from 100% cotton, making it travel-friendly! Plus, supporting Avéole means supporting bee conservation in urban spaces.

19. Organic Lip Balm from Spinster Sisters ($7.99)

This lip balm comes packaged in an FSC-certified paperboard tube. The formula is also Certified USDA Organic and comes in various scents (or none at all!).

20. AllTrails+ Subscription from AllTrails ($35.99)

AllTrails’ newest subscription offering can be emailed or customized and comes with additional perks beyond the free membership like real-time maps and wrong-turn alerts. This gift is perfect for a friend who loves hiking and spending time outdoors!

21. National US Parks Pass ($80)

This pass is the ideal way to support conservation efforts for our incredible U.S. national parks. It also gives you access to paid federal parks, paying for itself after a few visits!

Gifts for the Animal Lover

22. Save the Bees Protection Sleeves from Farmer’s Defense ($27.48)

Every purchase made at Farmer’s Defense restores 10ft2 of pollinator habitat. Plus, these sleeves offer UPF 50+ protection and are made from 85% REPREVE™ Polyester.

23. Honeybee Phone Case from Pela ($59.95)

These durable phone cases are made from flax, giving them a flexible and easy-to-clean quality. Pela also donates a percentage of their profits to Ocean Cleanup and Preservation Initiatives.

24. Socks that Protect Animals from Conscious Step ($44.95)

These animal-loving socks are made from GOTS Certified Organic Cotton. Plus, this 3-pack sock bundle donates to Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors. They’re the perfect gift for the friend that likes to be stylish, cozy, and make a difference!

25. Cabbage Patch Notebook from Decomposition ($11)

These durable notebooks are made from 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper and are printed with soy ink. They can be used for school, work, personal organization, doodling, and more! Who wouldn’t love a notebook covered in cabbage and rabbits?

We hope you were able to find the perfect gifts for everyone on your list this year!

Cheers to the end of a wonderful year and the start of an even better one – we couldn’t have done it without you.

Pho

Colorado Senators Pay DUG a Visit to Celebrate EPA Grant

By News
Senators Hickenlooper and Bennet looking at the worm compost bin with DUG's Jungle Judy.

We are thrilled to celebrate this achievement in community and energize toward action and positive change. 

On Tuesday, November 21st, DUG welcomed Colorado Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper, as well as Councilwoman Torres, to the El Oasis de Lorraine at Focus Points Family Resource Center Community Garden. At the celebration, we shared DUG’s history, presented our expansive programming, and discussed our future plans for the EPA grant. 

In 2023, DUG received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). DUG was one of 5 grant recipients from the EPA’s Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving Cooperative Agreement Program as part of President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, where the program’s grants totaled almost $4 million.

With the generous grant, DUG plans to expand our efforts through community garden and food forest expansion into six neighborhoods in West Denver, including Barnum, Barnum West, Sun Valley, Valverde, Villa Park, and West Colfax. Planting successful and community-maintained fruit-bearing forests and community gardens in an area of Denver with low tree canopy is a way to reduce the heat island effect, regenerate urban land, and promote healthy food access to the Denver metro area. With the grant, DUG plans to build at least six community gardens and nine food forests, expanding from our current 200 community gardens and 20 food forests (as of November 2023).

In this pivotal moment in DUG’s 45-year history, it was important for us to host at one of our beloved gardens. Having been an active community garden within the DUG network since 2012, El Oasis de Lorraine at Focus Points Family Resource Center Community Garden was an ideal choice. The event began with welcomes from DUG’s Director of Corporate Partnerships, Nessa Mogharreban, who acknowledged the positive impact the Colorado senators had on making this dream a reality.

“We want to thank our Colorado senators for their support and stewardship of the EPA grant. We’re incredibly excited to put the funds to work to enhance public health and environmental justice in Denver’s West Area, which is represented by Councilwoman Torres.” — Nessa Mogharreban, Director of Corporate Partnerships (DUG)

Multiple photos from the Senators' visit to DUG garden El Oasis de Lorraine

The morning continued with DUG representatives, Kelly and Jolon, sharing DUG’s incredible history and program growth with the crowd. Councilwoman Torres and  DUG’s Director of Gardens, Lara, followed with an explanation on the Denver West Area Plan and the anticipated positive impact of the EPA grant in the area. Lara shared information on the positive environmental and health benefits of food forests and community gardens, including increased biodiversity and carbon sequestration. We rounded out the event with DUG composting wizards “Jungle Judy” and Kristi sharing a hands-on worm composting demo that we could not get enough of. With dozens of community members and volunteers, nonprofit and government partners, and more, we relished in the chilly air, enjoyed hot coffee, and got dirty with worms (Senator Hickenlooper even dug his hands in to pick out a squirmy worm to show the kids).

Stay tuned with our DUG Digest news articles or on Instagram to follow our progress!

Additional Resources

We also wanted to give a big “thank you” to our community gardeners and volunteers, as well as Conservation Colorado, Denver Parks & Recreation, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), FEED Media, and Focus Points Family Resource Center for all of your support in organizing, hosting, attending, and celebrating with us! 

Photo of Master Composter class of 2023 at the 2023 Harvest Happy Hour

Our 2023 Harvest Happy Hour Celebrates Our Volunteers!

By News

Thank you to all of our volunteers who supported DUG’s 2023 programming!

As a way to celebrate and appreciate the amazing work our community has done this past year, DUG hosted our annual Harvest Happy Hour in early November at Zeppelin Station in Denver’s RiNo Arts District. More than 200 volunteers showed up for the event from across various programs, including our Tree Keepers, Master Composters (now Community Composters), Garden Leaders, and more! At the event, we cheered, handed out awards (see the list below for winners), ate incredible food, and passed out door prizes.

Photo of Master Composter class of 2023 celebrating at the 2023 Harvest Happy Hour

Read below to see all of our award categories and winners!  

Our Volunteers
  • Everything Everywhere All At Once Volunteers: Haley and Aidan
  • Garden Club Volunteers: Sarah and Lisken 
  • SPOT Volunteers: Our amazing power couple, Ann and Jeff!
  • Workday Heroes: Bill and Dean 
Garden & Garden Leaders Awards
  • 1st Year Gardens: South Lakewood Elementary (Garden Leaders – Cassie and Jennie)  and Cheyenne Arapaho Park (Garden Leaders – Satya and Nathan)
  • Resiliency: Focus Points (Garden Leaders – Brandon and Solomon) and Montbello Five Loaves (Garden Leader – Denise) 
  • Transformation: McMeen (Garden Leader –  DeziRae), Honor (Garden Leader – Sun Mi), Blue Spruce (Garden Leader – Kristine), and Wyman at DC21 (Garden Leaders – Max and Anna) 
2023 DUG Corps

Christina, Kourtnie, Rayanna, and Sarah

Tree Keepers 
  • Wheat Ridge – for excellence and leadership in community integration and food sharing: Miranda and Charlotte 
  • Samuels – for high site standards and leadership in perennials management: Lindsey
  • Tennessee Gateway – for dedication, creativity, and persistence in the face of unique challenges: Ruth, Kyle, and Cassandra 
  • Program Champions – for special and sustained effort in supporting Tree Keepers and the Food Forest Initiative as a whole: Bill and Krystyn “Yy” 
Master Composters

A special thank you to our 2023 Master Composters for all of the work they put in to dive deep into all things composting, recycling, and community engagement. In this ten-session course, participants learned about the science of composting, resource conservation, and how to use recycled materials to support gardening efforts. Please celebrate our graduating class of 2023, including: Anna, Brittney, Christina, Dean, Diana, Donna, Estevan, Jessica, Kris, Kristy, Laurie, Leah, Marlee, Mia, Michelle, Natasha, Rob, Ryan, Sami, Taylor, Tom, and Zoe! 

Want to join our 2024 Community Composters Training? Fill out this interest form, and we’ll notify you when applications open!

We want to thank everyone who supported this event and especially our 1,368 volunteers (plus 25 SPOT volunteers!) who collectively worked over 4,773 hours to support various DUG programs in 2023! 

We would also like to give a special thanks to the following brands and organizations for helping make this event happen:

  • Alveóle, for tabling and providing a delicious honey tasting as well as educating our guests about the importance of beehive colonies and beekeeping in Denver
  • Balcony Buddies, for donating various colorful railing gardens for our door prizes!  
  • EUREKUS, for donating incredible educational tech bloom kits for our door prizes!  
  • GrowOya, for donating 6 Oya Watering Pots for our volunteer door prizes – these watering pots help slowly supply water to garden plants all year round!
  • le’ Bakery Sensual, for the incredible worm cake they made for our Master Composters – they truly are the coolest cakes in Denver!
  • r.Cup, for bringing reusable water cups for guests to use to minimize plastic waste
  • Scraps, for providing composting services to ensure our event was as low waste as possible
  • The Office of Climate Action, Sustainability, & Resiliency (CASR) for their generous donation to help make this event possible!  
  • Wag Hotels, for donating pup-friendly boarding stays for our door prizes!
  • Zeppelin Station, for offering up their space for us to use and for donating specially-curated bar drinks for our guests (and for our board member, Adam Larkey, for making it happen!)

Educating the Future Earth Stewards One Seed at a Time

By Faces of DUG

Meet Miss Nune, avid gardener, ECE teacher and earth steward. 

Edurne Artazcoz Glaria, or Miss Nune as she is known by students, teachers and parents at Maxwell Elementary where she teaches Early Childhood Education (ECE), works with 3 year-old students with a variety of abilities using sensorial experiences to engage them with the world and each other.

Miss Nune grew up gardening thanks to her father, who loved to grow their own produce constantly digging in the soil, and using the produce in their homemade meals. “I’ve always loved to garden,” she said, “it is such a great way to connect with nature and I want to share that with my students.”

She has adapted the curriculum to support the learning of her diverse students, from creating visual materials to provide kids with autism a different way to communicate their needs with her and their classmates, to teaching in Spanish to welcome native-Spanish speakers, creating a safe and nurturing environment for all. 

Gardening is one more tool Miss Nune uses to engage the kids in sensorial nature-driven education. She follows the natural cycles of plants to teach kids about seasonality, “We had been talking about pumpkin seeds and showing them what a plant looks like. Then DUG brought us mini pumpkins for each child to be able to paint one and take it home. The kids loved it!” she said. 

Our Youth Education team has been working with Miss Nune since September of 2021 when she joined a cohort of teachers working to incorporate gardening education in their curriculum. “When I heard of the program I immediately applied because I saw the potential it could have on my students,” she said.

She incorporated vermiculture education with the support of our Youth Ed team and a Master Composter, who first taught the cohort how to care for Red Wiggler worms. “The kids love to take care of the worms,” she said, “they are our pets, and we check them every week. The kids feed them leftover fruit scraps and make sure their home is comfortable, it’s one of our favorite activities!”

In the spring, Miss Nune received a few Grow A Garden kits and divided the plants among the kids. The kids took care of seedlings at school for a couple of weeks before planting them in the community garden. Plus, Miss Nune had extra plants, so each kid could take one home. “That was a great activity!” she said, “because we talked about plants as living beings and the importance of nurturing them to keep them happy. Taking care of the plants made them feel capable and independent, regardless of their abilities.”

In September, they went to Miller’s Farm to learn more where food comes from. “The kids got to dig potatoes, and we talked about how potato chips coming from potatoes like those, they were amazed!” she said. And at the community garden they harvested cherry tomatoes and zucchini, “the garden was such a great way to teach them about colors, shapes and textures, plus they loved eating the cherry tomatoes!”

When the opportunity came about to have a cooking class with Slow Food Denver, as part of our Seed To Plate To Regenerate partnership program, Miss Nune was the first to schedule a visit. “It was great, although the instructors were nervous at first to work with 3 year-olds, they had a great time and the kids absolutely loved it!”

To close the gardening year, Miss Nune and her students planted garlic in the garden with the support from our Youth Ed team. “This was a great activity for the kids. We were able to work on our motor skills,” she said, “we worked with each child’s ability to help them dig a hole, plant the garlic clove with the pointy end up, cover it and then water it. They loved watering!”

“I’m so grateful for all the support from DUG! I love working with the Youth Ed team and I’m always eager to join any of the program activities they have to offer. It has been a great partnership,” said Miss Nune.

Our Youth Ed team has also enjoyed working with Miss Nune, her infectious energy and inspiring commitment to her students’ education fills our hearts. Thank you, Miss Nune!

Interested in learning more about our wonderful DUG community? Read our other amazing Faces of DUG pieces!

Alvéole, Building Community Around Bees

By News

Community gardens are green oases in an urban environment. The perfect place for bees and other pollinators to find food and shelter.

Our partnership with Alévole aims to build awareness around the importance of green urban spaces as habitat to promote biodiversity that supports the vital work of pollinators, and other beneficial insects, as part of more sustainable cities and food systems.

Alvéole’s mission is to reconnect people with nature in cities by making people fall in love with bees. Working with honeybees as ambassadors to build ecological awareness and their connection with our agricultural system. Falling in love with honeybees allows us to open our eyes to the many bees and other pollinators in our environment. In Colorado, there are 946 native species of bees, out of more than 20,000 around the world. 

We chatted with Tasha Wilson, Alvéole Beekeeping Team Manager here in Denver, about their work and the partnership with Denver Urban Gardens. This interview had been condensed.

How did the DUG + Alvéole partnership begin?  

In 2021, Alvéole started working with 1% for the Planet and using their standardized system and support to allow all of our cities across North America & Europe to partner with environmental organizations that were local to them.  We  value doing meaningful work and this partnership allows us to make meaningful community impacts with one of the best Denver environmental organizations.

DUG is greening our urban environment and adding to the biodiversity helping protect habitat for our pollinators. Many urban gardens are tucked in spaces that were previously underutilized. We do the same thing, we tuck beehives in underutilized urban locations, so our missions align.

The Denver Alvéole team has been a constant in many of our events, could you speak about this part of the partnership?

We work to connect people with nature through bees and so they will protect our environment in their daily lives. Participating in DUG events through volunteering has offered us opportunities to connect with people in a wide variety of ways . Our 1% for the Planet partnership requires us to donate 1% of our revenue to an environmental non-profit through either monetary donation, marketing or volunteer in-kind donation. Our volunteer efforts have included hosting educational kiosks and volunteering at the Garden Leader symposium and Fall Plant Sale. We also helped plant the food forest at The Urban Farm, volunteered at the Nome Park Community Garden workday, and supported the garden built at Earl Lee Evans Sensory Garden at FireFly Autism.

Image of person wearing "Alveole" shift holding tray covered in bees.

Education is part of your mission, could you share how that has manifested with DUG?

We have provided educational opportunities with our workshop offerings at the three DUG gardens that have adopted beehives. We have engaged with the broader community at tabling events through honey tasting and live bees. We also did a virtual beekeeping 101 class for DUG’s community, and now during fall we are giving workshops for the garden clubs at three elementary schools. 

Education is part of who we are at our core. And we work with honeybees as our ambassadors and our educational partners. Honeybees open up our eyes to the importance of all bees. Once you learn to recognize a honeybee in the environment you’ll start to recognize more and more bees, our wild native bees, a huge world of bees we were not connected to before. It reminds us that we need to protect the environment for all bees, not just one bee. 

We are so grateful for our partnership with Alvéole and for the focus on increasing biodiversity in urban spaces and protecting habitat for our bees and other pollinators. Their work allows us to step into the world of bees, and our work is to help protect the environment for all our bees to thrive. 

Reclaiming Food Sovereignty Through Gardening

By Faces of DUG

Meet Jat, community gardener, high school student, and food justice advocate.

Jat Martinez gardens at the Commons Community Garden at Confluence Park where he finds a way to reconnect with the natural cycles of the earth and reclaim food sovereignty. 

Jat, a junior in high school at the Denver School of the Arts, joined the community garden this summer after growing many plants indoors at home and wanting to take his green thumb to grow food, connect with the community, and begin his own food revolution. 

We caught up with Jat on a sunny fall afternoon at the Commons Community Garden to chat about his gardening journey.

Why did you decide to join a community garden? 

I love plants. At home, I have many decorative indoor plants and I have grown some other things like herbs on my balcony, but I wanted to try to grow food to understand what it takes and to connect more with nature.

Gardening gives me the opportunity to work with the circular cycle of the earth. I can put seeds or a plant in the soil in the spring, and see it grow and flourish in the summer, and now that the season is ending it is going back to the earth. It’s so beautiful!

Why is that so important to you? 

Because we have separated ourselves from nature so much that we don’t understand the cycles of the earth and how we are part of it. I mean, look at how our food is produced now and how the system is not working, at least not for everyone. The industrial food is not good for us, and many are going hungry. It [the food system] needs to change. 

Food is a right we are not getting. You see how many people struggle to get good food, and that’s not right. I find the homelessness crisis frustrating and the idea of giving food to others is a way to create a revolution. So being able to grow food that I can then share with others is great, it makes me feel connected with a cause.

How has this community garden helped you feel connected to the community? 

I love this community garden! Everyone is so nice and they share their gardening knowledge with me. When I started in May, I didn’t really know what to plant or how to work my plot, but everyone has been so welcoming and helpful. I like that this garden is an oasis in the middle of the city. I mean, if you ignore the buildings as you walk around this park and this garden it feels like you are in the forest. It makes me think of Princess Mononoke, you know the movie. 

What produce did you grow this summer? 

I grew brussel sprouts, which I had no idea how to harvest but they looked really cool. I also grew cabbages, onions, lots and lots of basil, marigolds, and tomatoes, a lot of tomatoes. My mom made some really great tomato sauce, because I don’t like raw tomatoes or tomatoes by themselves, but I like them in things, you know.

And now that the season is ending the plants are still filled with green tomatoes so I need to figure out how to use them.

Are you planning to return next season? 

Yes! I’ve learned so much this first season and I already have so many plans for my 8×4 plot for next year.

I want to try different produce, maybe some greens like bok choy or spinach. I really like spinach. It’s the one vegetable I can add to any meal. And maybe some flowers!

Grateful for a gardener in your life? When you make a gift in honor of a gardener you know–or in honor of all of DUG’s gardeners–you help provide spaces for Jat and others like him to grow cabbages and tomatoes while learning from other gardeners.

Donate by November 22 and your gift will be matched (up to a total of $10,000) by a generous donor who appreciates DUG’s critical work in food, climate, and community.