2020 Outstanding Garden Leader Awards

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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

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Every year, more than 600,000 pounds of food are grown in DUG gardens, with around 10% (or 60,000) pounds donated to local food banks and community organizations. Additionally, for the last 23 years, DUG has distributed tens of thousands of free and low-cost seeds and seedlings every spring to metro Denver residents to be able to grow their own food through our Grow A Garden program.

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

DUG + Slow Food Denver partner for virtual cooking classes

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DUG is cooking up virtual fun with Slow Food Denver!

This fall, we have been piloting new online cooking classes in partnership with Slow Food Denver as part of our Healthy Food for Denver Kid’s grant.

For four weeks, we supplied 139 3rd and 4th grade students at Fairview Elementary, Swansea Elementary, and Maxwell Elementary with the ingredients and tools needed to cook fresh, made-from-scratch meals at home using produce sourced from local farms. Each child participating in the program received produce for the week to feed a family of 6.

In partnership with Slow Food Denver, we supported teachers as they delivered virtual cooking instructions (in both English and Spanish!) for how to prepare four different meals, including seasonal vegetable soup, root veggie tacos, braised greens with pasta, and pupusas with curtido sauce!

The classes were a hit and we’re currently undergoing project evaluation as we prepare for the next round of classes!

Our Virtual Cooking Classes by the Number

The Importance of Urban Green Spaces

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Studies continue to show what we at DUG have long known to be true – that green spaces are vital to urban areas for greater human health and a biodiverse environment.

Yet green space in Denver is disappearing faster than in most other cities, with pavement increasing from 19 percent of the city in 1974 to 48 percent in 2018.

If trends continue, by 2040 almost 69 percent of the city is expected to be paved or covered. Only New York and a few mega cities exceed that level of what planners call “imperviousness.”

Denver Urban Gardens has been preserving and maintaining land in metro Denver for 35 years, and we currently steward over 31 acres across six counties. Our community and school-based gardens are not only places where people can get outside for fresh air and exercise, but also grow fresh, healthy food for themselves and their communities and find genuine connection with their neighbors.


We’re proud to be the largest urban network of community gardens in the nation.

For the last 35 years, we’ve been working towards our vision to create a vibrant, healthy Denver Metro Area where everyone has access to growing space and the resources needed to grow their own food.

With the rise in obesity, depression, carbon levels in the atmosphere, and cultural division, it’s clear gardens play an important role in supporting conscious movement and healthy eating, mental and emotional wellness, carbon sequestering and soil building, and bringing together people in community.

Welcome Linda Appel Lipsius, our new Interim Executive Director

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As summer has transitioned into fall, DUG has also been undergoing deep changes. While 2020 has brought challenges to all of us, DUG’s resiliency has been tested in the face of economic uncertainty and organizational shifts. However, we remain grounded and inspired by our amazing community in your care of one other throughout this pandemic.

In late September 2020, Dr. Violeta García resigned from her role as Executive Director of Denver Urban Gardens after leading the organization for the past 10 months. We are grateful for her energy and service to DUG and wish her the very best in her next venture.

Today, we also delighted to announce that Linda Appel Lipsius has stepped up to serve as DUG’s Interim Executive Director. Linda joined the board of directors earlier this year and brings a wealth of entrepreneurial experience, as well as a passion for gardening, sustainability, and permaculture, to the team. We are grateful to have her guidance and dedicated leadership as we navigate these challenging times.

Meet Linda and learn more about where DUG is headed into 2021 and beyond!

Check out our new film, “The Portal”

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Pioneering hemp CBD brand, Charlotte’s Web Inc., has recently launched its inaugural film festival, “Our Stories,” which features four poignant stories of healing within the communities of their nonprofit partner organizations, including DUG.

We are thrilled to share their short film,“The Portal,” with you, where you’ll meet two DUG Garden Leaders, David Kissler and Linda Pakiser, as they share about their journeys to find physical and emotional healing through gardening in community.

Facts about the El Oasis Land Sale

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Denver Urban Gardens At a Glance

Denver Urban Gardens (DUG) was founded in 1985 on the belief that together, we can build connection, knowledge, and resiliency by growing food. Over the last thirty-five years, we have grown to include more than 180 community gardens spanning six counties, and we’ve further expanded our impact by offering horticultural and leadership training, youth education, and food access programs that provide free and low-cost access to seeds, seedlings and education around growing food.

What is happening?

A tough decision had to be made due to our current financial situation, the state of philanthropy, and the uncertainties related to the pandemic. DUG is under contract to sell about two-thirds of the land on which the El Oasis Community Garden is located. Selling a portion of one garden will allow DUG to continue our mission and serve our community of 17,500 gardeners in more than 180 gardens throughout metro Denver..

The remaining one-third of the land will be redesigned as the new El Oasis Community Garden. We anticipate being able to accommodate most of the El Oasis gardeners in the new garden and will support the transition of any gardeners who desire to move to another nearby garden. 

We will work closely with the El Oasis community as we redesign the new garden that meets the gardeners’ needs. We anticipate the new garden will have more than 30 garden plots and retain many of the features of the current garden, including the pergola and storage shed. 

In addition to El Oasis Community Garden, DUG owns six other properties. We have no plans to sell any of those tracts of land.

Why are you selling a portion of a garden? 

This decision was not made quickly or lightly; many alternatives were explored by DUG staff and board members. However, this land sale is part of a larger strategy for moving DUG forward for the greater good. 

Fundraising challenges associated with the pandemic have exacerbated financial challenges that were already in existence, specifically DUG’s reliance on a line of credit over the last several years. For example, From 2014 through 2018, DUG worked to meet communities’ requests and built 59 new gardens. Unfortunately, during the same time period, approximately $300,000 to $400,00 in annual funding that we had received for over a decade dried up, and a national grant of nearly $100,000 that had been received annually ceased to be available, as well. 

How will you prevent this from happening again in the future?

Moving forward, we are building a more diverse fundraising strategy, reworking how we fund and maintain our gardens, and engaging the strength of our community to ensure we can continue providing education and land access for everyone.

What happens if the sale doesn’t happen? 

Unfortunately, if this sale does not close as planned during this calendar year, DUG will cease to exist as it does today because the organization would be on a path to winding down operations. The money from the sale allows us to pay off the line of credit, design and build the new El Oasis Community Garden, and establish the necessary reserves to ensure the organization’s sustainability moving forward. 

It is critical to make this transition a reality in order to continue to serve our entire community of 17,500 gardeners throughout metro Denver, many of whom rely on the land, seeds/seedlings and education DUG provides to feed their families and their communities. You can learn more about our community impact here.

How can I help? 

You can help DUG continue to support all of our gardeners by sharing facts about this situation. 

  • Share this webpage with other interested community members, friends and family members who may not have heard the complete story. 
  • Donate to DUG .While the sale of a portion of El Oasis garden does set DUG up for a sustainable future, it does not replace our need to raise funds to meet our annual budget this year and in the years to come. We need your financial support now more than ever.

This year, we are celebrating our 35th Anniversary. We’re asking our community to come together in support of DUG as we continue building connection, skills, and resiliency around growing food for everyone in the Denver Metro Area. 

Will you help us raise funds to ensure we finish 2020 strong and with the resources to continue our work into another year?