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Staff Spotlight: Meet Brittany

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Hi there! For those of you I haven’t met yet, I’m Brittany Pimentel, the Equity & Food Access Director here at Denver Urban Gardens (DUG).

Today I’m sharing a bit about myself, the recent shift in my role, as well as the equity work that’s happening behind the scenes at DUG.

I’m a Peruvian-American who from the age of 12 has worked in a smorgasbord of food-related roles, from restaurants and farm fields to nutrition education and food policy realms. Several years ago, while pursuing a master’s degree in international development with a concentration in food security and humanitarian assistance from the University of Denver, I realized what I really wanted to do was become a farmer. 

However, with student loans and lacking resources to land, I decided the next best thing I could do was engage in food systems change at the local level while helping to shift urban agriculture toward food justice and equitable access for all. After volunteering with DUG’s Grow a Garden program for several years, I felt like I scored my dream job when I was hired in 2018 to manage the program. 

Last June, the organization made a formal statement in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement that focused on our commitment to developing internal policies and systems to ensure that our team, our volunteer leaders, and our board of directors represent the communities we serve. We also committed to creating and implementing a framework for organizational transformation centering justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, and ensuring that our entire team is trained in anti-racist work.

As a first step towards that commitment, we recognized that we needed someone on staff committed to driving that work, and I feel honored to be able to serve as DUG’s first Director of Equity. In my new role, I’ll continue to lead our metro-wide Grow a Garden program, public gardening classes, and community partnerships. In addition, I’m working to create and implement a framework for organizational transformation and in the coming months, I’ll be using a Racial Equity Scorecard to assess all of our programming on a six-point scale to better understand where we’re starting from and where we need to prioritize efforts. 

DUG’s work to cultivate gardeners, grow food and nourish community can only be fully realized once we all have equitable access to resources and opportunities.

As we strive toward becoming a community-led, anti-racist organization, community input is ESSENTIAL to our future. That’s why I’m leading the charge to form a Change Committee, made up of garden leaders, program participants, growers, staff, and board members to help guide what this work will look like in the future. 

We’re ready and excited for the work ahead, and plan to check back in with more progress updates. Onward.

Interested in joining us? Connect with me at brittany@dug.org.

A Letter from our Executive Director

By News

What a year.

 

2020 was a year of seismic shifts. Everywhere. For everyone. Literally from the minute the clock struck midnight on January 1st. Something was off kilter. I don’t need to recount the list for anyone reading this – we all are intimately familiar. 

But DUG held steady throughout. We kept our gardens open, we delivered seeds, seedlings and education to 1,000s through our greatly expanded food access programs, we taught elementary students how to cook healthy meals and our gardeners grew and donated 300 tons of produce. We also stumbled. And learned. A lot. 

What we also learned that DUG is a valued part of the fabric of Denver. In 2021 and beyond, we commit to serving our home town more completely, equitably and impactfully than ever before. 

Read our 2020 Impact Report

As the word Interim is removed from my title, I look at what DUG has accomplished in its 35 years with awe, admiration, and gratitude and look forward to the next 35 years with giddy enthusiasm and confidence. 

With a robust network of gardens, tens of thousands of gardeners, even more people impacted by our food access programs, a best-in-class leadership and horticultural training curriculum and a deep connection to our youngest gardeners through our 74 school gardens and a best-in-class team, we will spend 2021 going deep. We will strengthen, enhance and aggressively commit to equity across the DUG network, ensuring all gardens, gardeners and students are met where they are and inspired and empowered to learn, grow and flourish. 

Our 30 acres will be welcome respite from months of indoor isolation for so many as our gardens will welcome 17,500 gardeners to come together safely in community, to dig in the dirt, sequester loads of carbon and produce clean, organic veggies. And we will strengthen the connections between gardeners, between gardens and with DUG itself as we are exponentially stronger when we are networked, connected and supported.

At DUG it all comes from the gardens: the soil, the roots, the bounty, the community. In 2021 we guarantee we will leverage our gardens to help Denver recover from the challenges we face stronger than before.

I can’t wait to dig my hands into the soil with DUG’s amazing team, our partners, our supporters, our gardeners and garden leaders and all of our other cherished stakeholders as we all celebrate our common humanity through growing food. Let’s grow together.

Sincerely,

Linda Appel Lipsius

Denver Urban Gardens Executive Director

Join our Virtual Valentine’s cooking class + dinner date with chef Biju!

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Ready to skip another night of Netflix + chill this Valentine’s Day? 

DUG is partnering with local food hero Chef Biju Thomas for a virtual Valentine’s Day cooking class and dinner date on Sunday, February 14th! 

Time: 5:30-7:00pm

Invite your favorite quarantine partner, don your finest date attire (or your most comfy pjs, it’s all cool!), and meet us online in your kitchen as Biju walks you through preparing a delicious veg-forward (of course) 3-course dinner.

Meet your chef

Chef Biju Thomas is a professional chef known for light, simple dishes bursting with bold flavors. He has designed the menus of many successful restaurants in Denver and Boulder, Colorado including  Biju’s Little Curry Shop.

 

Born and raised in south India, Biju found his love of all things food while growing up on a small family farm and cooking alongside his large family, all of whom cook, love to throw big dinners, and talk about food at all times.

Biju has appeared along with Guy Fieri on the Food Network’s DDD, the show ”Scraps” on A&E, dozens of local and national TV shows, and podcasts. As an entrepreneur, Biju is a co-founder of Boulder based sports nutrition company SkratchLabs, and in 2020 helped launch the popular online cooking platform mixn-match.com.

What’s on the menu…

Fattoush (z’atar) Salad 
Winter Vegetable Roast with Chicken, Falafel or Crispy Tofu
Wildflower Honey and Butter-poached Pistachios in Pastry with Cinnamon Cream 

Meet your entertainment

To help bring the vibe, longtime lovebirds Niki + Luke of The Dollhouse Thieves will serenade you + your sweetie with a special live set during dinner.

Their musical style blends elements of neo-rock with indie-folk using jazz-influenced vocals and unconventional instruments such as accordion, clarinet, and trombone. Did we mention they also take requests?

Listen to more of The Dollhouse Thieves

Tickets

$250 | VIP Sit Back and Relax Package for Two 

We’ve taken care of it to make this a low-stress, high-fun evening–including all the ingredients for the meal + everything you’ll need to make special craft cocktails with Boulder Spirit’s pink gin, sweet treats from local favorite Hammond’s Candy, heart-shaped beeswax candles from Bee Healthy Candles to set the mood, and chamomile tea from Teatulia to cap off the night.

Pick up at the DUG office (free) or have it delivered ($25 fee) on Saturday, February 13th.

Note: you must be 21+ to purchase VIP package.

$150 | Table for Two

We’ll send you the full ingredient list so you can shop beforehand and join in on the virtual fun.

Get your tickets now

Thanks to our sponsors at Boulder Spirits, Hammond’s Candies, Bee Healthy Candles, and Teatulia

2021 Grow a Garden applications open January 1st!

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For the last 23 years, we’ve been fighting food insecurity and building resiliency in Metro Denver through our annual Grow a Garden program, which connects individuals, families and community groups to free and low-cost seeds, seedlings, and educational support to grow their own food either at home or in a community garden. We’ve served tens of thousands of people over the decades, and each year we hear firsthand how transformational the program is, especially for first-time gardeners.

2020 was our largest program yet, and we’re gearing up for another unprecedented year. In order to make the program ever more accessible, we’re excited to be offering a Pay-What-You-Can model in 2021. Now anyone, regardless of income, can benefit from our organically grown and non-GMO seeds and seedlings, and expert garden support.

We’re committed to making this program accessible to all. Our suggested $60 program fee is offered as a a guide to help you set your own price. We’re trusting you to let us know what’s right for you–more or less. 

We also listened to your feedback and are transitioning our in-person workshops to online support through our virtual network offered in easily digestible, bite-sized bits of wisdom. 

Our online application is open all of January and allows you to select a convenient pickup location for your seeds and seedlings from one of our 16 partner organizations. Learn more and apply here between January 1st – January 31st. 2021.

How Denver got growing: our 2020 COVID-response impact

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For the last 23 years, DUG has been fighting food insecurity in metro Denver through our Grow a Garden program, which connects individuals, families, and community groups to free and low-cost seeds + seedlings, as well as the educational resources to grow a thriving garden at home or in a DUG garden.

FRESH FOOD FOR ALL

When ‘COVID-19’ became the word of 2020 in early March, none of us at DUG knew quite what to expect for our organization, but we did know one thing – that metro Denver residents needed access to fresh, healthy food more than ever. In April, as supermarket shelves emptied, schools and businesses closed, and people lost their jobs in record numbers, we sprang into action to ensure we could meet the needs of our community. 

In addition to our long-standing Grow a Garden program, we also introduced our emergency To-Grow Boxes, a perfect-for-beginners garden kit that combined seeds, seedlings, and a bilingual Plant Care Guide to show folks how to grow enough veggies and herbs in a 10’ x 10’ plot to support the nutrition needs of a family of four from summer into fall. Thanks to the generous financial and product contributions from our corporate partners, including Sprouts’ Healthy Community Foundation and Botanical Interests, we were able to gift more than 800 To-Grow Boxes to the community.   

In May, coordinating both Grow a Garden and the To-Grow Boxes, we distributed nearly 48,000 seedlings and 29,000 seed packets with the help of more than 200 volunteers and our incredible community partners: Metro Caring, The GrowHaus, Montbello Organizing Committee, Denver Food Rescue, Sprout City Farms, Ekar Farms, Re:Vision, Denver Community Active Living Coalition, Community Care Collective and DeLaney Community Farm.

Learn more about the impact of our 2020 food access programs below, and check out our Faces of DUG profile of Jean, whose To-Grow Box helped build stronger community ties during COVID!

Support Grow a Garden in 2021

Donate Now

Saying goodbye to long-term DUG contractor and friend, Francisco Cordero

By News

It is with deep sadness that we share the news that DUG’s long-time contractor and friend, Francisco Cordero suffered a heart attack due to COVID related complications after being in the ICU for several weeks, and passed away on Monday, November 23rd. We are devastated by the loss of such a good, kind and generous man. Our hearts are broken and he will be missed dearly.

Francisco did so much incredible work to positively transform Denver. He would bend over backwards at every turn to help DUG out when one of our gardens needed his skills and support. DUG’s network of gardens would not be what it is today without him.

We have set up a Gofundme page to help support the Cordero family. He leaves behind his wonderful family, wife and kids. Let’s all wrap around them and give them the love that Francisco gave to everyone that he knew. Please give what you can and from the bottom of our hearts, thank you for being a part of the DUG family.

Donate to the Cordero family

Es con profunda tristeza que compartimos la noticia de que el contratista y amigo de DUG, Francisco Cordero sufrió un paro cardíaco debido a complicaciones relacionadas con el COVID después de estar en la UCI durante varias semanas, y falleció el lunes 23 de noviembre. Estamos devastados por la pérdida de un hombre tan bueno, amable y generoso. Nuestros corazones están destrozados y lo extrañaremos profundamente.

Francisco hizo un trabajo increíble para transformar a Denver positivamente. Él haría todo lo posible para ayudar a DUG cuando algún jardín de DUG necesitaba de sus habilidades y apoyo. La red de jardines comunitarios de DUG no sería lo que es hoy sin él.

Creamos esta página de gofundme para apoyar a la familia Cordero. El deja atrás a su maravillosa familia, esposa e hijos. Vamos a llenarlo de amor y apoyarlos de la misma forma que Francisco lo hacía. El le dió amor a todos los que conocía. Por favor, den lo que puedan y desde el fondo de nuestro corazón, GRACIAS por ser parte de la familia DUG.

To the family of Francisco Cordero: 

From his long-time friend and work colleague, Michael Buchenau

Francisco was one of my dearest friends and closest work colleagues. We were introduced through our landscape work over 20 years ago, and we grew to be great friends over that extended period of time. We took every opportunity together to talk about our families and our children, our favorite sports and teams, and even politics and world affairs. We spent personal time at Rockies and Broncos games, and my wife Krista and I often had Francisco over for a beer or impromptu dinner after work, and of course he would come each time bearing gifts of homemade pecans, salsa, carnitas, tamales, or chills, and always a gift bottle of tequila. And I’m reminded at this time of year of one of our most memorable family Thanksgiving celebrations spent with Francisco at our table. He loved our children and they loved him. 

He and I shared many of the same views and passions, as well as the value of hard, honest work, and the satisfaction of a job well done. In the over 20 years that we worked together, he and I never exchanged a single harsh or unkind word with each other. I had a deep respect for Francisco and knew that he would do anything for me. Our work held us together and I always imagined that one day he and I would be two old men on a porch reminiscing about all of our great projects and sharing the joys of our lives together. I even hoped that one day my wife and I would get to visit him at his home in Mexico and share in the joy that he felt so deeply there. But life doesn’t often follow the path of our dreams, and so sadly that day on the porch will never come for Francisco and I. I am left however with the memories of the quality time we did get to spend together, often on the job site at the end of the day, where we would linger and talk about the simply pleasures that life had to offer.   

Francisco was one of a kind. He was the most positive, optimistic, “can-do” contractor that anyone will ever know. He did whatever he could to build what I designed, and he worked with me to look for improvements to my plans during the construction phase of each project. He was always willing to go beyond what was needed, and re-do work until I was satisfied. In Francisco’s mind, every morning dawned a new day to do great work. He was both a skilled technician and an artisan when it came to masonry, grading, drainage, irrigation and planting. But most of all, he was remarkably generous with our clients, and he became genuine friends with so many of them. It was standard of Francisco to go the extra mile for clients at no cost, and often to work late into the evening, in all weather conditions, to complete a project in time for a client’s party or to make sure their irrigation system was safely winterized before a storm.  

Francisco also did so much great work for Denver Urban Gardens (DUG). For over the nearly two decades that we worked with him at DUG, he and his crew helped to install essential infrastructure at a countless number of new and existing DUG gardens. He bent over backwards at every turn to help DUG out when one of our gardens was in need of his skills and support. A significant portion of his time over the years was donated to DUG’s mission to create community gardens where neighbors grow healthy food together, with much of his generosity going to help gardens in low-income neighborhoods for immigrant and refugee gardeners. 

With every new garden project, we would bring Francisco in to clear and grade the site, trim trees, build terrace walls, stairs and ramps if needed, and install irrigation systems and perimeter fence. His work created the foundation of each garden and set them all up for long-term success. He and his crew have been a loyal and essential partner in the successes of Denver Urban Gardens and our network of over 185 gardens would not be what it is today without Francisco. He leaves a legacy of meaningful work and community-loved places throughout the city of Denver.

Francisco was most joyful however when he would talk about his family. He loved his wife with his soul and his oasis was with her in Mexico. When he spoke of his children he would burst with pride and hope for their futures. He cared deeply about his siblings, and revered his mother and father. He lived his life for his family. 

He was such a good, kind and generous man, and the truest of friends. Without fail, he always greeted me on the phone, or in a text, or in person with – “good morning my friend, how are you today?” He always had time for me and for everyone that crossed his path, and he was filled with the joy of life. His tragic and untimely death has saddened so many and has broken my heart. On the day he was lost, the world became less kind and less generous, and so its now up to each of us to take a part of who Francisco was and do something extra to care for a loved one, or do something unexpected to help someone without expecting anything in return. And finally, if we can all simply remember to greet the people in our lives with the same grace with which Francisco greeted us, his legacy of kindness will live on within each of us.

I’m just now coming to terms with the fact that my life from here forward will never be the same because it won’t include Francisco. I can only hope that he knew how much I loved him and how blessed I felt to call him my friend.    

with my family’s deepest sympathies,

Michael

A la familia de Francisco Cordero:

De su viejo amigo y colega de trabajo, Michael Buchenau

Francisco era uno de mis mejores amigos y compañeros de trabajo más cercanos. Nos presentaron a través de nuestro trabajo de jardinería hace más de 20 años, y nos convertimos en grandes amigos durante ese largo período de tiempo. Aprovechamos cada oportunidad juntos para hablar sobre nuestras familias y nuestros hijos, nuestros deportes y equipos favoritos, e incluso sobre política y asuntos mundiales. Pasamos tiempo personal en los juegos de los Rockies y los Broncos, y mi esposa Krista y yo a menudo invitamos a Francisco a tomar una cerveza o una cena improvisada después del trabajo y, por supuesto, él venía cada vez con regalos de nueces caseras, salsa, carnitas, tamales o chilis, y siempre una botella de tequila de regalo. Y recuerdo en esta época del año una de nuestras celebraciones familiares de Acción de Gracias más memorables que pasamos con Francisco en nuestra mesa. Amaba a nuestros hijos y ellos lo amaban a él.

Él y yo compartíamos muchas de las mismas opiniones y pasiones, así como el valor del trabajo duro y honesto y la satisfacción de un trabajo bien hecho. En los más de 20 años que trabajamos juntos, él y yo nunca intercambiamos una sola palabra dura o cruel entre nosotros. Tenía un profundo respeto por Francisco y sabía que haría cualquier cosa por mí. Nuestro trabajo nos mantuvo unidos y siempre imaginé que un día él y yo seríamos dos viejos en un porche recordando todos nuestros grandes proyectos y compartiendo las alegrías de nuestras vidas juntos. Incluso esperaba que algún día mi esposa y yo pudiéramos visitarlo en su casa en México y compartir la alegría que sentía tan profundamente allí. Pero la vida no suele seguir el camino de nuestros sueños, y lamentablemente ese día en el porche nunca llegará para Francisco y para mí. Sin embargo, me quedo con los recuerdos del tiempo de calidad que pasamos juntos, a menudo en el sitio de trabajo al final del día, donde nos quedábamos y hablábamos sobre los placeres simples que la vida tenía para ofrecer.

Francisco era único en su clase. Era el contratista más positivo, optimista y “capaz de hacer” cualquier cosa. Hizo todo lo que pudo para construir lo que yo diseñé, y trabajó conmigo para buscar mejoras en mis planos durante la fase de construcción de cada proyecto. Siempre estaba dispuesto a ir más allá de lo necesario y volver a hacer el trabajo hasta que yo estuviera satisfecho. En la mente de Francisco, cada mañana amanecía un nuevo día para hacer un gran trabajo. Era un técnico experto y un artesano en lo que respecta a mampostería, clasificación, drenaje, riego y siembra. Pero sobre todo, fue muy generoso con nuestros clientes y se hizo amigo de muchos de ellos. Era usual para Francisco hacer un esfuerzo adicional para los clientes sin costo y, a menudo, trabajar hasta altas horas de la noche, lloviera, tronara o nevara, para completar un proyecto a tiempo para la fiesta de un cliente o para asegurarse de que su sistema de riego estuviera preparado para el invierno de manera segura antes de una tormenta.

Francisco también hizo un gran trabajo para Denver Urban Gardens (DUG). Durante las casi dos décadas que trabajamos con él en DUG, él y su equipo ayudaron a instalar la infraestructura esencial en múltiplos jardines DUG nuevos y existentes. Él hizo todo lo posible para ayudar a DUG cuando uno de nuestros jardines necesitaba sus habilidades y apoyo. Una parte significativa de su tiempo a lo largo de los años fue donado a la misión de DUG de crear jardines comunitarios donde los vecinos pudieran cultivar alimentos saludables juntos, y gran parte de su generosidad fue destinada a ayudar a los jardineros en vecindarios de bajos ingresos para jardineros inmigrantes y refugiados.

Con cada nuevo proyecto de jardín, traíamos a Francisco para limpiar y nivelar el sitio, podar árboles, construir paredes de terrazas, escaleras y rampas si era necesario, e instalar sistemas de riego y cerca perimetral. Su trabajo creó la base de cada jardín y los preparó para el éxito a largo plazo. Él y su equipo han sido socios leales y esenciales en el éxito de Denver Urban Gardens, y nuestra red de más de 185 jardines no sería lo que es hoy sin Francisco. Deja un legado de trabajo significativo y lugares amados por la comunidad en toda la ciudad de Denver.

A Francisco se le iluminaba la cara cuando hablaba de su familia. Amaba a su esposa con el alma y su oasis estaba con ella en México. Cuando hablaba de sus hijos, estallaba de orgullo y esperanza por su futuro. Se preocupaba profundamente por sus hermanos y reverenciaba a su madre y a su padre.Vivía su vida por su familia.

Era un hombre tan bueno, amable y generoso, y el más fiel de los amigos. Sin falta, siempre me saludaba por teléfono, o en un mensaje de texto, o en persona con “buenos días amigo mío, ¿cómo estás hoy?” Siempre tenía tiempo para mí y para todos los que se cruzaban en su camino, y estaba lleno de alegría por la vida. Su trágica y prematura muerte ha entristecido a muchos y me ha roto el corazón. El día que falleció, el mundo se volvió menos amable y menos generoso, por lo que ahora depende de cada uno de nosotros tomar parte de quién era Francisco y hacer algo extra para cuidar a un ser querido, o hacer algo inesperado para ayudar a alguien sin esperar nada a cambio. Y finalmente, si todos podemos simplemente recordar saludar a las personas en nuestras vidas con la misma gracia con la que Francisco nos saludó, su legado de bondad vivirá dentro de cada uno de nosotros.

Hasta ahora estoy aceptando el hecho de que mi vida de ahora en adelante nunca será la misma porque no incluirá a Francisco. Solo puedo esperar que él supiera cuánto lo quería y cuán bendecido me sentí al llamarlo mi amigo.

Con el más sentido pésame de mi familia,

Michael

Below are just a few thoughts about Francisco from clients, friends, and staff members of Denver Urban Gardens (DUG):

From long-time DUG staff member Judy Elliott:

I am honored to have known Francisco throughout all of these years and also relieved that his family had that last moment with him. All of this is such a call to me to constantly, daily, activate our love for all we hold dear; putting aside arguments, perceived wrongs, letting family know how important they are in every way. Francisco was so much part of the soul of DUG, uncomplaining, just ‘showing up’, doing the best he could in every situation. I remember personally how he & his family helped me with a construction clean-up at my home, refusing to accept due payment because I was part of the DUG family. I think of him in light and know that he remains strong in his earth spirit. We are so very honored to have learned from him.

From landscape architect and former DUG co-director David Rieseck:

I largely remember being “rescued” by Francisco and his crew multiple times when our team at DUG was facing a deadline to finish a garden at a school. With each project, he came and finished the work that we started in what seemed to have been moments. I recall Francisco building many of our residential projects from what would be considered concept drawings. He would accept our ideas, try and understand our instructions, and then do the right thing—-time after time. We were so blessed to be able to turn to him for his skills, resilience and good-nature. He was just a flat-out nice guy with a wonderful disposition; a gift.

From long-time DUG staff member Cheryl Brubaker:

I truly loved that guy — one of a kind and such a special soul. So very hard to accept that we don’t have him anymore.

From DUG staff member Nessa Mogharreban:

I’ve had the honor and pleasure of knowing Francisco for the past 6 years. I remember first meeting him, having been told that I’d be working closely with him to build our network of gardens, and had no idea what to expect. From the beginning, he treated me with respect and made me feel comfortable with his goofiness and laughter. He took every opportunity to teach me things whenever I asked questions, as stupid as they may have been. He was always ready to help and I knew that every time I called him, he would answer the phone with the happiest of hellos. I’ve learned so much from Francisco and the thing I’ll take with me the most is his honest and genuine friendship. He has left his mark on the city of Denver and I am so appreciative and honored to call him my friend and colleague. I will miss him greatly and will think of him anytime I need a smile.

From DUG staff member Lara Fahnestock:

I want to let you know how sorry I am that you are grieving right now. Francisco meant so much to me and the whole DUG team. I can see him now, walking slowly into the office, faded black jeans, a denim shirt, cowboy boots and a smile. He would always take time to say hello and ask how I was. After his trips to Mexico, he always brought candied pecans to share- such a treat! He was a rare combination of hard working and kind. He will be deeply missed.

From Dr. Fred Masoudi:

I knew Francisco for many years since he worked on the first of a number of projects on my back yards. It was clear from the start that he was exceptional—as a craftsman who could transform projects on paper to beautiful, peaceful places and as a person who could form meaningful relationships. More recently, I had the good fortune of spending time with him during my most recent yard project because I have spent more time working at home because of the pandemic. I frequently saw him when he came to review the work of his crew and get his hands dirty perfecting things. There was a routine around his visits—he would drive up in his truck and lumber out in his straw hat, jeans and well-worn boots, smiling from behind his sunglasses. After he had a chance to look around, I would go outside to say hello. He’d always offer me a fist bump with the calloused knuckles that reflected his constant involvement in the hand work of his projects. I would practice my Spanish with him and he would patiently provide me with pointers and grin when I would misuse a word or say something awkwardly. We would also talk about life—he told me how much he was looking forward to going to see his family in Mexico and spending time with the pecan orchard. While I met him as a contractor, I was grateful to know him as a friend. When I spend time in my back yard in the years to come, I will think about Francisco—it will be a lasting monument to a kind, honest, thoughtful, and hard-working man whom I was lucky to know.  

From the Lewandowski family:

The shock is too much. I last saw him on Oct 21st, and he was working too hard as usual.  He rescued us from the extreme cold and shut off our sprinklers before they froze.  I’ve known him since 2004 and have loved working with him over the many years. He was always generous and kind, and is irreplaceable.

From the Burton family:

What a kind man!

From the Duke family:

Such a good man! My heart breaks when I see his picture and realize that he won’t be here any longer to help us realize our garden dreams. No one could do it like he did.

From the Booth family: 

Francisco was a kind and hardworking family man, and a good spirit.

From the Vandervelde family:

So sad to hear about his passing, he was our friend.

From the Galleher family:

How very sad to hear this tragic news about our dear friend. Francisco was truly one of the kindest people we have known.

From the Noriega family:

I hope his family knows how adored he was.

From the Rhodes family:

He was such a sweet person. I always really liked talking to him. We were so sad to hear about his passing.

From the Katz family:

He was such a good man!

From the Wallace family:

The three of us are stunned and deeply sad. He was so warm and gentle and gracious. I always took a cue from him to slow down and connect, before doing anything else. He always talked to Carmen our daughter about her height, and to Mark about the Rockies, and always with a smile. We are so grateful to have known him. His spirit and presence lives on in our beautiful yard, and in our hearts.

From Keith Greene:

We became good friends and he was a pallbearer at Jody’s burial. He was still helping me out, and I will really miss him. So hard to believe he is gone.

From the Rodgers family:

He was such a very kind man. Sending love and prayers for peace and comfort.

From architect and client Aaron Hodgin:

Just this morning I was shoveling the snow in our front and carefully putting a little extra snow on each of the grasses and bushes to give them a little extra water, and enjoying the sweetness of our garden.  I am very thankful for the care and craft provided by Francisco and his team. My daughter Solenne and her neighbor friend Grace placed some lights in the crimson sentry maple in our side yard, and had it on after learning about Francisco’s passing.  I didn’t notice it until the light glowed the other evening, it was lovely between the two houses and illuminating the garden sitting space that Francisco built for us. I am thankful for my experiences with Francisco and getting to know him a little more each time we connected or worked together and learning little bits of his family, too. This has been a difficult year for so many in the world, but incredibly tragic when it affects our friends and loved ones. Sending heart-filled well wishes to Francisco for the opportunities that our lives shared paths together and tremendous thoughts and prayers for his family.

A continuación algunas notas para Francisco de clientes, amigos y miembros del personal de Denver Urban Gardens (DUG):

De Judy Elliot miembro del personal de DUG de hace muchos años:

Me siento honrada de haber conocido a Francisco durante todos estos años y también aliviada de que su familia haya tenido ese último momento con él. Todo esto es un llamado para mí a activar constantemente, todos los días, nuestro amor por todo lo que amamos; dejando de lado las discusiones, los errores percibidos, dejando que la familia sepa lo importantes que son en todos los sentidos. Francisco era una gran parte del alma de DUG, sin quejarse, simplemente “apareciendo”, haciendo lo mejor que podía en cada situación. Recuerdo personalmente cómo él y su familia me ayudaron con la limpieza de la construcción en mi casa, negándose a aceptar el pago debido porque yo era parte de la familia DUG. Pienso en él como una luz y sé que permanece fuerte en su espíritu terrenal. Estamos muy honrados de haber aprendido de él.

Del arquitecto paisajista y ex codirector de DUG, David Rieseck:

Recuerdo en gran medida haber sido “rescatado” por Francisco y su equipo varias veces cuando nuestro equipo en DUG se enfrentaba a una fecha límite para terminar un jardín en una escuela. Con cada proyecto, venía y terminaba el trabajo que comenzamos en un santi amen!  Recuerdo que Francisco construyó muchos de nuestros proyectos residenciales a partir de lo que se considerarían dibujos conceptuales. Aceptaba nuestras ideas, intentaba comprender nuestras instrucciones y luego hacía lo correcto, una y otra vez. Tuvimos la suerte de poder acudir a él por sus habilidades, resistencia y bondad. Él era simplemente un buen tipo con una disposición maravillosa; un regalo.

De Cheryl Brubaker, miembro del personal de DUG de hace muchos años: 

Yo realmente quería y apreciaba mucho a Francisco — único en su clase y un alma tan especial. Es muy difícil de aceptar que ya no lo tenemos con nosotros. 

De Nessa Mogharreban, personal de DUG:

He tenido el honor y el placer de conocer a Francisco durante los últimos 6 años. Recuerdo la primera vez que lo conocí, cuando me dijeron que trabajaría junto con él para construir nuestra red de jardines, y no tenía idea de qué esperar. Desde el principio, me trató con respeto y me hizo sentir cómoda con sus tonterías y risas. Aprovechaba cada oportunidad para enseñarme cosas cada vez que le hacía preguntas, por estúpidas que fueran. Siempre estaba dispuesto a ayudar y sabía que cada vez que lo llamara, él contestaría el teléfono con el más feliz de los saludos. He aprendido mucho de Francisco y lo que más me llevo es su amistad honesta y genuina. Ha dejado su huella en la ciudad de Denver y estoy muy agradecida y honrada de llamarlo mi amigo y colega. Lo extrañaré mucho y pensaré en él cada vez que necesite una sonrisa.

De Lara Fahnestock, personal de DUG:

Quiero hacerle saber cuánto lamento que estén sufriendo en este momento. Francisco significó mucho para mí y para todo el equipo de DUG. Puedo verlo ahora, caminando lentamente hacia la oficina, jeans negros descoloridos, una camisa, botas de vaquero y una sonrisa. Siempre se tomaba el tiempo para saludar y preguntarme cómo estaba. Después de sus viajes a México, siempre traía nueces confitadas para compartir, ¡qué delicia! Era una rara combinación de un gran trabajador y un ser amable. Yo y el equipo de DUG lo extrañarémos profundamente.

Del Dr. Fred Masoudi:

Conocí a Francisco durante muchos años desde que trabajó en el primero de varios proyectos en mi patio trasero. Desde el principio quedó claro que era excepcional, como un artesano que podía transformar proyectos en papel en lugares hermosos y pacíficos y como una persona que podía formar relaciones significativas. Más recientemente, tuve la suerte de pasar tiempo con él durante mi proyecto de jardín más reciente porque he pasado más tiempo trabajando en casa debido a la pandemia. Lo veía con frecuencia cuando venía a revisar el trabajo de su equipo y ensuciarse las manos perfeccionando cosas. Había una rutina en torno a sus visitas: llegaba en su camioneta y salía pesadamente con su sombrero de paja, jeans y botas gastadas, sonriendo desde detrás de sus lentes de sol. Después de que tuviera la oportunidad de mirar alrededor, salía a saludar. Siempre me ofrecía un puñetazo con los nudillos callosos que reflejaban su constante participación en el trabajo manual de sus proyectos. Practicaba mi español con él y él pacientemente me daba consejos y me sonreía cuando usaba mal una palabra o decía algo torpe. También hablábamos de la vida; me dijo que estaba muy ansioso y emocionado por ir a ver a su familia en México y pasar tiempo con el huerto de nueces. Aunque lo conocí como contratista, estaba agradecido de conocerlo como amigo. Cuando pase tiempo en mi patio trasero en los próximos años, pensaré en Francisco: será un monumento duradero a un hombre amable, honesto, reflexivo y trabajador a quien tuve la suerte de conocer.

De la familia Lewandowski:

Estamos muy sorprendidos por su partida. La última vez que lo vi fue el 21 de Octubre. y él estaba trabajando duro, como de costumbre. Nos rescató del frío extremo y cerró los rociadores antes de que se congelaran. Lo conozco desde 2004 y me ha encantado trabajar con él durante estos años. Siempre fue generoso y amable, y es insustituible.

De la familia Burton:

¡Qué hombre tan amable!

De la familia Duke:

¡Qué buen hombre! Mi corazón se rompe cuando veo su foto y me doy cuenta de que ya no estará aquí para ayudarnos a hacer realidad nuestros sueños de jardín. Nadie podía hacerlo como él.

De la familia Booth: 

Francisco era un hombre de familia, amable, trabajador y de buen espíritu.

De la familia Vandervelde:

Nos entristece saber de su fallecimiento, él era nuestro amigo. 

De la familia Galleher:

Qué tristeza escuchar esta trágica noticia sobre nuestro querido amigo. Francisco fue verdaderamente una de las personas más amables que hemos conocido.

De la familia Noriega:

Espero que su familia sepa lo amado que era. 

De la familia Rhodes:

Era una persona tan dulce. Siempre me gustó mucho hablar con él. Nos entristeció mucho escuchar sobre su fallecimiento.

De la familia Katz:

¡Francisco era un gran hombre!

De la familia Wallace:

Los tres estamos atónitos y profundamente tristes. Francisco era tan cálido, gentil y amable. Siempre seguía una señal de él para bajar la velocidad y conectar, antes de hacer cualquier otra cosa. Siempre hablaba con nuestra hija Carmen sobre su altura, y con Mark sobre los Rockies, y siempre con una sonrisa. Estamos muy agradecidos de haberlo conocido. Su espíritu y su presencia siguen vivos en nuestro hermoso jardín y en nuestros corazones.

De Keith Greene:

Nos hicimos buenos amigos y él fue el cargador del féretro en el entierro de Jody. Todavía me estaba ayudando y realmente lo extrañaré. Es tan difícil de creer que se ha ido.

De la familia Rodgers:

El era una persona tan amable. Enviando amor y oraciones por su paz y consuelo. 

Del arquitecto y cliente Aaron Hodgin:

Esta misma mañana estaba limpiando la nieve de nuestro frente y poniendo con cuidado un poco más de nieve en cada una de las hierbas y arbustos para darles un poco de agua adicional y disfrutar de la dulzura de nuestro jardín. Estoy muy agradecido por el cuidado y la artesanía brindados por Francisco y su equipo. Mi hija Solenne y su amiga vecina Grace colocaron algunas luces en el árbol  de nuestro jardín lateral y las encendieron después de enterarse del fallecimiento de Francisco. No me di cuenta hasta que la luz brilló la otra noche, era encantador entre las dos casas e iluminando el espacio para sentarse en el jardín que Francisco construyó para nosotros. Estoy agradecida por mis experiencias con Francisco y por conocerlo un poco más cada vez que nos conectabamos o trabajábamos juntos. También aprendimos pequeños aspectos de su familia. Este ha sido un año difícil para muchos en el mundo, pero increíblemente trágico cuando afecta a nuestros amigos y seres queridos. Enviando buenos deseos llenos de corazón a Francisco por las oportunidades que nuestras vidas compartieron juntos y tremendos pensamientos y oraciones para su familia.

2020 Outstanding Garden Leader Awards

By News

Each year, DUG recognizes Garden Leaders who have gone above-and-beyond as volunteers, stewards, organizers, and leaders in their community. We’re excited to share more about 2020’s outstanding Garden Leaders in the words of their community members themselves!

Bruce Loftis, Gables Community Garden

Bruce is always (always!) willing to help anyone and everyone with anything and everything that comes up.  He’ll help other gardeners prepare their plots, water when they’re on vacations, harvest, and clean up at the end of the season.  He’ll help with any projects that are happening with the students in the garden– and this year when we can’t do things in person with the students, he is always there to help plant, tend, and care for the school plots when students can’t be there with us. Bruce is always the first to volunteer when a task needs to be done, whether watering new trees or perennials, contacting gardeners, or sharing knowledge with other schools or groups interested in starting gardens of their own.  He is open to new ideas, he manages conflict well, he persists through difficult situations, and he cares about other people.  Best of all, Bruce always has a smile on his face and a pleasant greeting for everyone he meets.  We are so lucky to have Bruce as our Garden Leader and fellow gardener. 

Michael Lyster, Academia Sandoval Community Garden

Michael is a great leader who keeps us updated on DUG events and helps gather materials and resources for the garden.  He is a good gardener willing to share his ideas and experience.

His gardeners say: 

  • I love that he calls us all “farmers.”
  • I love that his/our response to the El Oasis sale was to make more space in our garden.
  • I love the eclectic and fun conversations we all have remotely now / in person before about gardening and its relation to all things important. 

Elaine Davis, Fletcher Community Garden

Elaine is a Master Community Gardener who  jumped into leading the Fletcher garden after the last leader left. She leads equitably and inclusively and has made a point of honoring the garden’s history and traditions.

Pallas Quist, Samuels Community Garden and DCIS Baker Community Garden:

Pallas has been a Garden Leader at Samuels since it was established in 2012. This year when her children started school at DCIS Baker, Pallas noticed the garden was underused and has spent the last few months giving the garden a facelift and getting it ready for students to plant in the spring!

Stephanie Sisnroy, Little Sprouts Community Garden:

We would like to give a shout out to Stephanie from the Little Elementary DUG. We have known Stephanie and her family for several years now. She is super organized and lets people contribute however they can. She has gotten people to share their expertise and has made the students at the school the main focus of learning. We have had several fall farmers markets and she has involved many community organizations to purchase plants and supplies from. Now with covid…we have had to adhere to some rules to continue to make the garden as Stephanie would say…our happy place. Her contributions have been endless and it is greatly appreciated. We appreciate being a part of this garden.

Lyric McKnight, KCAA Community Garden:

Lyric has been a part of the KCAA garden leadership since it was established in 2015. She is a DUG Master Community Gardener who shares her commitment to healthy living with her gardeners. This year when more people were facing food insecurity, Lyric responded by helping plant all the available garden plots for donation.

Gardening for Purpose

By News

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. For the last 23 years, DUG has also 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.

Learn more about how DUG provides the resources and education to help metro Denver residents grow healthy food for themselves and their neighbors below.