Our 2022 Impact Report is Out

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DUG’s on a mission for people, plants, and planet.

Each year we publish our annual impact report, a review of the previous year with a focus on what we’ve done, what we’ve learned, and how we grow. And each year we find ourselves having the same reaction – “WOW! We did a lot.” And 2022 was no different.

(New here? Hi, we’re Denver Urban Gardens, DUG for short. You might have seen our signs around town.

We are the largest independent community garden network in the country. And so much more. We’re on a mission to provide access, skills and resources for people to grow healthy food in their community and regenerate urban green spaces. You can learn more about our mission and vision here.) 

We like to think about how our work impacts people, plants and planet–and the spaces where they intersect. We’re working toward a sustainable urban future in metro Denver where people are connected to the earth, each other, and the food they eat.

Want to get in on the action? There are so many other ways to engage with DUG, too! Garden with us, grow your skills, volunteer, donate, find us online, join our mailing list, or become an Ambassador

Help us power our work! 

Join our community of people who champion people, plants, and planet. Become a Sustaining Steward!  

Our Next Community Garden is Coming to Union Station Neighborhood!

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Denver Urban Gardens, Central Platte Valley Metropolitan District, Downtown Denver Partnership Partner to Breathe New Life into Neighborhood.  

We are excited for the plans to transform a fenced-off area between Wewatta Street and Chestnut Place on 17th Street in lower downtown (LoDo) Denver into a dynamic community garden, sound garden and event space. Working in partnership with the Central Platte Valley Metropolitan District (CPVMD) and Downtown Denver Partnership (DDP) we will design, build and manage the community garden and other enhancements slated to open in Spring/Summer 2024.

“This project is such a great example of a diverse partnership of private, nonprofit and government sectors coming together to create a place that improves the downtown experience,” said Andrew Iltis, vice president, Planning and Community Impact for Downtown Denver Partnership. “A community garden will give the district a way to manage a high-visibility area of downtown and get neighbors directly involved in improving their city.”

For two years, the space on 17th Street in front of Whole Foods Union Station and at the entrances to the RTD transit depot was closed to protect and preserve the land and trees during the period when there were far fewer people in the area due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the 1970s the modern community garden movement has been transforming neighborhoods across the United States. Reactivating this particular space as a DUG community garden will not only provide land for nearby apartment and condo dwellers to grow their own fresh, healthy, hyper-local organic food, but also build community and offer the gardeners a way to take positive climate action by enhancing biodiversity, sequestering carbon, building healthy soil and minimizing water use.

Recent research proves that community gardening positively impacts physical and mental health by reducing stress and anxiety, and increasing fiber intake and exercise which helps prevent cancer and chronic diseases. As many people are still struggling with the isolation imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic and the Surgeon General recently declared an epidemic of loneliness, this benefit of community gardening remains especially poignant.

In addition to garden plots, the design will incorporate the creative use of sound and light to develop a tranquil environment for all users whether they are gardening, enjoying a meal or simply seeking respite from a busy day. In addition to the redesign, efforts to re-energize the area through activation include a weekday lunchtime concert series featuring local artists, free Saturday morning yoga classes and a pumpkin patch in the fall.

“We looked at a number of options to activate this space,” said Anna Jones, manager of the Central Platte Valley Metropolitan District “We see this as an opportunity to re-think how public space is activated in a post-pandemic urban landscape. Our philosophy is centered on the notion that active, healthy community-based stewardship will breathe new life into the area in ways it hasn’t seen before.” 

“Over the past four decades, DUG has honed its model for community gardens so that they end up being much more than a catalyst for growing fresh produce,” said Linda Appel Lipsius, CEO of DUG. “These gardens are places where residents build strong connections with others while healing their bodies and minds. The DUG team is thrilled to bring this unique community asset to the heart of LoDo, addressing the desires and needs of residents as demonstrated by a long waitlist for the nearby Commons Park Community Garden.” 

If you are interested in joining the wait list for this garden, please email


The Easy Vegan Bringing Flavor and Flair to Gather ‘Round

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We are counting down the days until our annual fundraising gala Gather ‘Round on September 28! This is our favorite time to celebrate in community with gardeners, partners, and supporters. It is a time to dance and eat while reflecting on the growing season and planting seeds for the future.

This year we are extra excited to welcome back The Easy Vegan as our caterer. The Easy Vegan celebrates plant-based cooking in all its forms, from globally inspired street food to plated catering menus. 

Owners Alexi Mandolini & Taylor Herbert have a combined 28 years of experience in the service industry and, after losing work due to the pandemic, they started The Easy Vegan as a twice-weekly restaurant pop-up in the university neighborhood of Denver. Now you can find them all over Denver serving everything from fun and unpretentious street food to thoughtful, farm-to-table plated food and drink experiences.

“We wanted to bring something different to Denver,” Mandolini said in an interview for 5280 Magazine. “Our goal is to reimagine vegetables beyond the constraints of health fads and diet culture and craft beautiful, delicious, and exciting food where you don’t feel like you’re missing something without a meat protein, or even a meat substitute at the center of your plate,” said Herbert.

The Easy Vegan is one of the teams currently competing on Food Network’s Great Food Truck Race hosted by Tyler Florence. We are thrilled to see they are crushing the competition week after week and most recently got first place on week five, winning $15K and immunity for next episode. You can follow their journey at their weekly watch party at Town Hall Collaborative.

The menu The Easy Vegan has crafted for this year’s Gather ‘Round:

Bread Service
| local sourdough, caramelized leek butter
Harvest salad | shaved apples, golden beets, local greens, toasted pepitas, apple cider vinaigrette
Autumn Vegetable Ragout | braised fennel, blistered tomato, cannellini beans, marbled potato, tender squash, mini potato chips, fried sage
Herb-whipped parmesan polenta
Chocolate pot de crème or chai bodino

Don’t miss out on our biggest event of the year. It’s going to be both delicious and a plant-tastic good time!

Get your tickets now!

Food Forests Progress: We are Starting to See the Fruits

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Last spring, we launched the Etkin Family Food Forest Initiative with a vision to transform unused, marginal areas into thriving urban forests dripping with fruits, berries, and nuts for all community members.

Trees are an investment in the future, and we knew it would take time for the bare root trees and bushes to grow and become a full-grown food forest, but we’re excited to share that we’re starting to see fruit set on some of our first trees and bushes! This progress is a cause for celebration as we work toward creating a sustainable metro Denver for our children and their children.

Gooseberry bush producing its first crop

In 2022, we planted six sites across the Metro Area, including Nome Park, Barnum Community Orchard, Living Light of Peace Church, Cook Park, Samuels Elementary, and DCIS Fairmont Elementary.

These sites laid the foundation toward our bigger goal to plant 20 food forests in just two years! We’ve kept the momentum going with nine more sites planted this past spring, and we have five more coming this fall.

The Etkin Family Food Forest Initiative aligns with our three impact areas: Climate, People & Food:

  • Climate: By planting trees in urban areas, we increase the green canopy, helping to mitigate the heat island effect and combat pollution. Trees also absorb carbon from the atmosphere, contributing to a healthier environment.
  • Community: Food forests provide vital green spaces for our community to relax, reflect, and connect with nature. This is especially essential in addressing the loneliness epidemic affecting various populations.
  • Food: These food forests increase fresh food production in urban areas, offering a bounty of fruiting trees, bushes, and plants that provide food for the community to enjoy fresh or preserve for colder months.

Colorado Climate and Fruiting Trees
Taking into consideration the extreme Colorado climate, we work with techniques to increase the chances for success and longevity of these Food forests by:

  • Planting bare root trees in the spring, which makes them less susceptible to transplant shock and are quicker to take off because they don’t need to transition from the container to the ground. 
  • Choosing varieties that do well in our climate zone and semi-arid environment
  • Prepping the site weeks in advance by turning the soil and amending it with mulch to allow microorganisms to develop a healthy soil web before the roots go in. 
  • Working with the community to train Tree Keepers who volunteer their time to make sure these food forests thrive.
  • Shaping the land into sunken planting basins that harvest rainwater and reduce evaporation.
Creighton Hofeditz, Director of Permaculture & Perennials, showing volunteers how to plant bare root trees

Volunteers supporting a food forest planting day

We have seen tremendous support from community members who want to see this initiative flourish.
We are grateful to the hundreds of volunteers who came out to dig in the soil, shovel compost and mulch, and help plant the nine sites this past spring, as well as the organizations who have adopted specific food forest sites to support the maintenance and other related needs with a three-year commitment.

As we continue to plant food forests we continue searching for volunteer Tree Keepers. The role doesn’t require any previous experience with taking care of trees; we will train volunteers in pruning, pest management, and general tree health.
Fill out this form if you are interested in becoming a Tree Keeper.

Spring 2023 food forests planted:
Tennessee Gateway in partnership with Athmar Park Neighborhood Association, The Urban Farm, Asian Pacific Development Center (APDC), Ute Trail Community Garden, Morey Middle School, Glenbrook Greenhouse (DPS), Doull Elementary, Happiness Gardens in partnership with the City of Wheat Ridge, Parkview United Church Community Garden.

Adopt A Garden: A Meaningful Way to Give Back

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Last year we launched the Garden Adoption program as an opportunity to connect local and national organizations with community gardens and food forest sites in a meaningful way that supports both the community and the organization’s sustainability and social responsibility goals. 

We have seen a tremendous response from dozens of organizations and we wanted to know why they chose to Adopt a Garden as a way to give back, so we caught up with three amazing organizations – AdCellerant, Denver Broncos Foundation, and Meow Wolf – to hear from them directly how the opportunity to Adopt a Community Garden or Food Forest site has been enriching for them and their teams:

1- Why did AdCellerant decide to adopt a DUG garden?

Our two giving pillars here at AdCellerant are:
A Greener Future As a Certifiably Green Business, we are committed to a greener, more eco-friendly future, and caring for our planet.
A Better Future We are committed to a better and brighter future for our children and disadvantaged populations.

While we do give to other organizations as part of our goals of our giving pillars, we adopted Elati Community Garden and three food forests [Parkview, Cook Park and DCIS Fairmont] because we love the tangible value they provide both for the community and for our team members. We love having the opportunity to get hands on time and connect with nature in a meaningful way.

2- What was the experience like – from working with our team to coming out to the garden(s)?
We love the DUG team! Everyone has been so kind, friendly, and knowledgeable. I feel like I learn something new at each volunteer event I attend, and I’ve heard similar from our team. The garden we adopted is walking distance from the office, and it’s such a pleasant opportunity to be able to visit and be around the plants and in the sunshine.

3- What was the favorite part of this experience? and why?
My favorite part so far has been just learning all the different ways that the gardens and food forests impact our community. I am also excited to increase awareness among our team members. Nessa and Creighton gave us a great, short presentation at a company wide meeting, and I got great feedback. Our team feels like we are part of something awesome.

4- Anything else you would like the public to know about the process and your commitment to the garden
We are truly grateful to have adopted a garden and three food forests through DUG, and we are committed to supporting their mission of building sustainable and inclusive food systems. DUG’s commitment to community gardening and food forests aligns with our values of promoting equity, community engagement, and a greener future. We are proud to be a part of such a dedicated and impactful organization and look forward to continuing our work with DUG to promote sustainable and inclusive food systems for all.

1- Why did Denver Broncos Foundation decide to adopt a DUG garden?
The Denver Broncos Foundation is committed to making a positive impact on future generations by creating a “game plan” for life through youth health and wellness initiatives, dynamic in and out of school programming and access to career pathways. We’re excited to partner with Denver Urban Gardens to support the Cheltenham School Community Garden, which is just down the road from Empower Field at Mile High.

The opportunity to partner with DUG and support that neighborhood – which includes a DPS school and Boys & Girls Club of Metro Denver location, two community partners we have worked with a long time – was exciting for us, especially knowing how intentional DUG is about reducing barriers to fresh, healthy, and organic food by providing access to space, knowledge, and resources for anyone wishing to grow their own produce.

In addition to increasing food access, we love that DUG school-based gardens provide an opportunity for students to experience lessons focused on nutrition, mental health, sustainability, community building, leadership, and more.

2- What was the experience like – from working with our team to coming out to the garden(s)?
It’s been a seamless process working with DUG – from meeting with them to learn about programming and the Garden Adoption program, to setting up our first volunteer opportunity at Cheltenham and beyond.

We are grateful for the support and direction of the DUG staff and volunteer team and are excited for future opportunities to support our DUG garden and the community it is in.

 3- What was the favorite part of this experience? and why?
Denver Broncos staff, cheerleaders and our mascot had the opportunity to visit the Cheltenham School Community Garden in April and put in sweat equity alongside the DUG garden leader and team to help prep our garden for spring. Staff from both Empower Field at Mile High and the Centura Health Training Center rolled up their sleeves and pitched in to replace garden beds, remove weeds, compost soil and more.

It was so meaningful to have such a hands-on experience through DUG, especially around Earth Day.

1- Why did Meow Wolf decide to adopt a DUG garden?
As a B Corp, our corporate social responsibility is really focused around historically marginalized and underrepresented communities, as well as supporting environmental and sustainability efforts.

DUG has so many locations all across the Denver metro area in many spaces that serve these groups, like the Beeler St. Community Garden, which we specifically adopted, as well as falling perfectly in line with the environment and sustainability aspect with the nature of the work you do and all the great educational programming offered around them.

2- What was the experience like – from working with our team to coming out to the garden(s)? The experience has been wonderful so far! The team has been very communicative and getting to visit the Beeler St. Community Garden was such a joy. Jim and Prem were so lovely and take so much pride in the work they do, which was super inspiring. Our marketing team also loved getting to volunteer last month with planting at the Asian Pacific Development Center. It was such an informative and fun morning!

3- What was the favorite part of this experience? and why? Definitely getting to learn more about the gardens from the gardeners themselves, whether from visiting Beeler St. to volunteering, which provided so many great insights into sustainability. Just getting outside too is such a nice and much needed mental break from the day to day workflow. We love DUG! Thank you for all you do!

The Science is in: Gardening is GOOD for You!

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Article adapted from The scientific reasons you should resolve to start gardening in 2023, first published by Lisa Marshall at CU Boulder Today  

Anyone who has gardened can tell you that gardening has a powerful effect on both mind and body, and we’re excited to share new research confirming those outcomes!

DUG was honored to be a partner in a 3-year (2018-2020) randomized trial exploring the physical and mental health benefits of community gardening funded by American Cancer Society and conducted by researchers from University of Colorado BoulderColorado State UniversityUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillMichigan State UniversityUniversity of Colorado Anschutz Medical CampusUniversity of South Carolina, and Urban Institute.

Read the results of The Community Activation for Prevention Study (CAPS) study here.

The study, operated exclusively in DUG gardens, found that people who started gardening ate more fiber and got more physical activity—two known ways to reduce risk of cancer and chronic diseases. They also saw their levels of stress and anxiety significantly decrease.

Professor Jill Litt (right) checks on a plant with colleague Erin Decker (left) at a community garden next to Regis University. Photos by Glenn Asakawa/CU Boulder, 2017.

Filling the research gap

Some small observational studies have found that people who garden tend to eat more fruits and vegetables and have a healthier weight. But it has been unclear whether healthier people just tend to garden, or gardening influences health.

Only three studies have applied the gold standard of scientific research, the randomized controlled trial, to the pastime. None have looked specifically at community gardening.

To fill the gap, senior author Jill Litt, a professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at CU Boulder, recruited 291 non-gardening adults, average age of 41, from the Denver area. More than a third were Hispanic and more than half came from low-income households.

After the last spring frost, half were assigned to the community gardening group and half to a control group that was asked to wait one year to start gardening.

The gardening group received a free community garden plot, some seeds and seedlings, and an introductory gardening course through the nonprofit Denver Urban Gardens program and a study partner.

Both groups took periodic surveys about their nutritional intake and mental health, underwent body measurements and wore activity monitors.

By fall, those in the gardening group were eating, on average, 1.4 grams more fiber per day than the control group—an increase of about 7%.

The authors note that fiber exerts a profound effect on inflammatory and immune responses, influencing everything from how we metabolize food to how healthy our gut microbiome is to how susceptible we are to diabetes and certain cancers.

While doctors recommend about 25 to 38 grams of fiber per day, the average adult consumes less than 16 grams.

“An increase of one gram of fiber can have large, positive effects on health,” said co-author James Hebert, director of University of South Carolina’s cancer prevention and control program.

The gardening group also increased their physical activity levels by about 42 minutes per week. Public health agencies recommend at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week, a recommendation only a quarter of the U.S. population meets. With just two to three visits to the community garden weekly, participants met 28% of that requirement.

Study participants also saw their stress and anxiety levels decrease, with those who came into the study most stressed and anxious seeing the greatest reduction in mental health issues.

The study also confirmed that even novice gardeners can reap measurable health benefits of the pastime in their first season. As they have more experience and enjoy greater yields, Litt suspects such benefits will increase.

The study results don’t surprise Linda Appel Lipsius, executive director of Denver Urban Gardens (DUG). “It’s transformational, even life-saving, for so many people,” Lipsius said.

Many DUG participants live in areas where access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables is otherwise extremely limited. Some are low-income immigrants now living in apartments—having a garden plot allows them to grow food from their home country and pass on traditional recipes to their family and neighbors.

The social connection is also huge.

“Even if you come to the garden looking to grow your food on your own in a quiet place, you start to look at your neighbor’s plot and share techniques and recipes, and over time relationships bloom,” said Litt, noting that while gardening alone is good for you, gardening in community may have additional benefits. “It’s not just about the fruits and vegetables. It’s also about being in a natural space outdoors together with others.”

Ready to get gardening with DUG? Learn more about how to join a community garden.

Gardening can save us.

By News

written by Linda Appel Lipsius, DUG’s Executive Director 

On the surface to many, gardening might appear to be a lovely, quaint pastime. After all, with grocery stores on (almost) every corner, who needs to grow their own food anymore? 

Even if we have both the financial means and the access (neither of which is true for many Coloradans) to get all of our food, wrapped neatly in non-compostable packaging, grown using derivatives of neurotoxins and explosives, devoid of both flavor and nutrients, at supermarkets–should we? 

No. We shouldn’t. 

Every human should have the resources and skills to grow their own food. In soil. In a garden, on a rooftop, in a container. This simple, elemental act will reap exponential dividends.

Our current industrial food system has many consequences:

  • Dislocation from where our food comes from, resulting in passive, disengaged consumption 
  • Fruits and vegetables that are both nutrient and flavor devoid
  • A food system designed for our food to travel 1,000s of miles from farm to fork, requiring warehouses, coolers, and transport, contributing to greenhouse emissions
  • Harvested produce that loses its nutritional value as it sits for days to weeks before getting eaten
  • Chemical pesticides and fertilizers that are destroying ecosystems and harming farmworkers.
  • Extractive farming that depletes farm the land’s ability to be productive and to heal 

When we activate ourselves and our communities to grow their own food– to re-engage with the miracle that is our earth’s bounty– important lessons and truths reveal themselves:

  • The wonders of nature: how can one tiny little seed produce 50 tomatoes or hundreds of beans or the spiciest of peppers?
  • The critical importance of soil: that if it is healthy, thriving and full of beneficial microorganisms, crops (and the planet) will thrive
  • The importance of biodiversity, pollinators and beneficial pests
  • The mental and physical health benefits that come from digging in the soil (After a year + of the pandemic, I know I’ve learned that getting dirty on my knees with a fistful of dirt is the ultimate antidote to a day spent staring at a screen)
  • The reconnection to our resources: when we grow our own food, we’re less inclined to waste it

Please learn more. Take action. Become an intentional eater and grow something you like to eat. See what an organically grown tomato or cucumber from your backyard can taste like. Today. Plant a seed in a pot, a garden, or a park. And start demanding that our industrial food system delivers food with the same integrity as what you grow in your backyard – or on your roof or in your containers – by supporting producers with integrity.


Through Denver Urban Gardens, gardening communities grow more than 600,000lb of food each year across 188 community gardens, all consumed on a neighborhood level, using organic & regenerate practices. We teach people to garden and provide the space and community support to succeed. Imagine how much hyper-locally produced, highly nutritious food we could be enjoying if we all started growing our own… 

Meet the 2023 DUG Corps!

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This season, four wonderful 2023 DUG Corps members are here to support DUG gardens and host Micro Network events. Please help us welcome Rayanna, Kourtnie, Christina, and Sarah – and look for them in a garden near you!

Meet Christina

My name is Christina Highsmith. I’m one of the four DUG Corps members this season and am loving every moment of it! It’s a dream of mine to be a part of such an incredible organization.
I’m a backyard gardener and houseplant mom. I graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics from the University of California, Berkeley, and have since worn many hats in my professional life, mainly in the field of education, but also finance, dog training, and baking! It’s all about the journey!
My love for nature started when I was a kid growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area. As a kid with anxiety, I remember feeling grounded in the outdoors, whether it was cloud watching for hours, listening to waves at the beach, or getting muddy out in my own backyard.
I’m a huge believer in the therapeutic qualities of nature and hope to incorporate this into my professional life down the road!
When I’m not doing DUG Corps activities, you can find me wandering barefoot around the yard with my three burly rescue dogs, glass of wine in hand, and scheming my next big gardening idea.

Meet Sarah

Sarah came to Colorado, from the San Francisco Bay Area, to earn her bachelor’s degree in Organismal Biology and Ecology from Colorado College. She holds a deeply rooted interest in ecology and earth stewardship and has pursed this in a diversity of ways.

Sarah has studied flammulated owls in the ponderosa pine forests of Colorado and common nighthawks in the sand hill ecosystem of Florida. She has contributed to both longitudinal and short term demographic studies of threatened bird populations with a focus on the impacts of climate change.

Most recently, Sarah worked for Sprout City Farms, growing organic produce on an urban farm in Lakewood Colorado, where she focused, instead, on the ways in which our changing climate is impacting our food systems. She is excited to be member of the DUG team, working to build community around food and earth stewardship.

Meet Kourtnie

My name is kourtnie burse, I’m from New Orleans Louisiana. I enjoy the outdoors especially spring and summer. I love that everything seems to be rejuvenating and coming alive again, which I find to be beautiful.

My education background is in environmental science/Geography, from the University of Colorado.

I absolutely love animals of all kinds and currently have a small backyard flock of chickens . I love to farm, ride horses and grow crops of all kinds and enjoy times with my family and friends.


Meet Rayanna

Hello, my name is Rayanna Schutt. I grew up in Commerce City, Colorado, with lovely views of the Purina Dog food factory and the Suncore Refinery. As beautiful as the surrounding views were – something was missing.

As an early teen, my close friends and I set out on a journey to “re-wild” our blocks, introducing native pollinator plants, and learning about food deserts and the issues that creates in the inner cities.

It is a humble honor to be surrounded by so many like minded individuals, here at DUG – and to share our passions for food justice, Earth Care and heirloom tomatoes!

Climate Action One Seed at a Time

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Written by Linda Appel Lipsus

DUG is a Climate Organization 

…among other things.

Or is it?

This topic has come up a number of times for me over the past month in various discussions. While I firmly believe DUG is a climate organization, I was shocked to hear so many people say community gardens are not places where we can have climate impact. Why aren’t we making the connection?

Maybe the disconnect lies with size. Gardens are small and we have a cultural obsession with bigger is better. If what you are doing is not a billion of something with a million of something else in one fell swoop, it’s not meaningful. Maybe the disconnect lies with speed. Gardening and growing is inherently slow, intentional work and does not provide instant gratification and instant results, so it must not be working.

Or maybe the disconnect lies with scale. With gardening, you help a tiny seed grow or you sow a mere 10’ by 10’ plot of land while our climate problem is SO big and vast and overwhelming and incomprehensible that these small steps cannot possibly make a difference.

All of this, I believe, is a manifestation of learned helplessness. Making the health of the planet someone else’s problem to fix.

And I get it. It is all so overwhelming. And, in response, I stand firm that DUG’s (unstated) mission is to undo this learned helplessness vis-a-vis our planet.

 All change starts with one step by one person. Growing food and connecting to the soil is something humans were meant to do. We are of the earth. We are dependent on the earth. And the earth is dependent on us acting with care. If we don’t, we get evicted, and that process seems to be underway now.

Each and every one of us has a sacred bond to the land beneath our feet, and that bond can be maintained, nurtured and stewarded by so many simple steps. And, when lots of people take those steps, we do, in fact, create change. When you think of it in terms of billions of people vs. hundreds of corporations, the potential of our collective impact far outreaches that of Fortune 500 CSR goals.

To that end, this earth week I ask you to be curious. Read something. Do something. Talk to someone. Take a minute to set your intention on a new habit you can cultivate that will help heal our home.

Some gardening hacks:

Heal your Soil – As the earth’s “skin,” soil is one of our planet’s most important resources, and it is being ransacked by conventional farming and ranching practices.

You can help reverse this degradation in your own garden, raised beds and even container gardens. 

✔️ Use natural alternatives to chemical pesticides and fertilizers which kill both the bad and the good bugs, of which there are many. Another option is integrated pest management.

✔️ Add compost to your soil at the beginning and end of each season. Compost is rich in microbial life which is what infuses your soil with everything it needs to grow healthy, nutrient-rich food. 

✔️ Plant fall cover crops to do the work in the cold winter months!

✔️ Opt not to clear your garden at the end of the season. Naked soil is vulnerable and rapidly loses moisture and nutrients. Leave the plants in or cut them down and spread the mulch over the winter.

✔️ Support organic, regenerative producers

✔️ Take action and write to your local lawmakers and offending businesses to stop poisoning our soil and our food system.

Increase Biodiversity – Plant different things every year in different places to serve varying functions and attract pollinators. 

✔️ Plant pollinators – Attract and support your friendly pollinators by adding plants and flowers that welcome bees, butterflies, etc.

Find the space, even in a food garden, because pollinators help the entire ecosystem. The Butterfly Pavilion is a tremendous resource. 

✔️ Crop rotation – Your soil has a memory and each plant gives and takes different things. By rotating what you plant where, you let your soil breathe and reset each season. 

✔️ Try not to monocrop – Just as we hear about conventional agriculture monocropping corn, soybeans, etc. you can fall into the monocropping trap, too.

You might really love a certain variety of tomato or pepper and only want to grow that one. This approach might serve you for a season, but not multiple. Mix it up.

✔️ Plant in guilds / practice companion planting – Certain plants benefit from being planted near each other. They provide support and resiliency. Most have heard of the “Three Sisters” – corn + beans + squash – example.

These life-giving crops each serve distinct and complementary purposes to each other that result in a thriving trifecta.

Go ahead and get rid of your lawn – There are a number of reasons why it makes sense to go lawn-free. As to the “how,” Resource Central can help you figure this out, and Boundless Landscapes has shared some ideas too. 

Compost – You can compost almost anywhere you live using a variety of methods. Composting not only captures food waste to create a rich and productive soil amendment, it keeps organic matter out of the landfill where it emits high levels of methane. Composting means you’re both creating a net positive and reducing a net negative. 

And, as always, if you are looking for a 101 on regenerative practices, please watch the film, Kiss the Ground. Grab some popcorn and invite your friends!

Happy Earth Day. Let’s start reclaiming hope today.

2023 Garden Leader Symposium: Building Community, Inclusivity, and Engagement

By News

This past Saturday, February 18, we hosted more than a hundred Garden Leaders from across the Denver Metro Area for our 2023 Garden Leader Symposium. It was wonderful to see smiles and welcoming hugs as we reconnected in person after two years of virtual symposiums.

We started the day with refreshments and casual conversations before Lt. Governor Diane Primavera officially kicked off the meeting. The Lt. Governor introduced the four DUG Corps members who will be supporting our work this growing season, “Serve Colorado has partnered with DUG and Colorado State University Extension to bring on four AmeriCorps members who will be helping with youth education and leading workdays over the next nine months.”

From the opening remarks, we transitioned to Garden Operations, as our team, Lara, Eliza, Taylor and Marisa, presented the Garden Leader Resources DUG has, how to find them on the website, and who to contact for different needs and scenarios.  

One of the goals of this year’s symposium was to workshop the topics of building community and engagement in the garden, and what a supportive growing environment looks and feels like. For both of those, garden leaders and DUG team members huddled in smaller groups for breakout sessions to share ideas and resources.

We also held a panel discussion about “Cultivating Safe Space: Supporting Unhoused Community Members in the Garden,” with the support and expertise of community and government organizations, like – Terese Howard from Housekeys Action Network Denver, Chris Richardson from Wellpower/STAR, Lana Dalton, Director of Unsheltered Homeless Response HOST, Vi Bright, Mutual Aid Monday, Kristine Thomas, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

Our keynote speaker, Evan Harrison from Kiss the Ground, addressed the topic of Regeneration and the importance of redirecting Farm Bill efforts and funds toward a regenerative agriculture model that supports us all.

It was amazing to see all the community members that keep our gardens running in one space. We look forward to an amazing 2023 growing season! 

And we are especially grateful to our sponsors Specialty Woods Products, Birdcall, Everyday Pizza, Boochcraft, Illegal Petes, Great Divide Brewing Co. and Patagonia Denver.