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Commons Park Community Garden is Open!

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Commons Park Community Garden is ready for Spring Growing Season!

It’s been more than 23 years since Denver Commons Park opened and has become a beloved open space Denverites flock to. A new gathering place has just opened within Commons — the first major addition to the park in its 23-year history.
The Commons Park Community Garden is the result of a collaboration between DUG, Denver Parks and Recreation, the Riverfront Park Homeowners’ Association, and Civitas.
The result is 28 garden plots (with the capacity for eight more), as well as three accessible planters that will encourage Central Platte Valley residents to grow their own fruits and vegetables within a community of shared values and common efforts.
DUG hosted an opening celebration on Saturday, April 30th, where volunteers filled planters with soil and prepared the plots and overall garden for the coming planting season, and there’s already a 150-person waiting list of prospective gardeners.

Learn more about the 190+ community gardens in the DUG network here. 

DUG Says Goodbye to Nessa!

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After 8 years of building gardens as a workday warrior, Nessa Mogharreban, Director of Physical Infrastructure, is moving on from DUG.

We all feel so grateful to have learned so much about DUG, the community gardens, and physical infrastructure skills from Nessa. She has been an integral member of DUG’s staff and it’s hard to imagine DUG without her knowledge, humor, and passion for gardening. We will miss her and wish her the best of luck in her new adventures!

If you know Nessa, you know how much she loves to make parody music videos…enjoy this final one, where the entire DUG team joins in to help ‘send her on her way.’

“It’s been a fun ride these past 8 years, getting to know some of the coolest gardeners out there and working for the amazing organization that is DUG. I’ve learned so much from each and every one of you and I am grateful for all of your passion and knowledge. Together we’ve built the largest independent community garden network in the nation! We are a part of something greater and I know we will continue to be a catalyst for change nationwide. Let’s continue to take care of each other and the earth and I’ll look forward to our paths crossing again.”

– Nessa Mogharreban

DUG Launches New Partnership with The Giving Grove

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Denver Urban Gardens is excited to announce a new partnership The Giving Grove, a national nonprofit serving communities experiencing food insecurity.

Since its launch in 2013, The Giving Grove network has planted 330 orchards across the nation that re-established green space on unused and vacant land while providing free, holistically-grown fruits, nuts, and berries.  Giving Grove’s mission is to provide healthy calories, strengthen community, and improve the environment through a nationwide network of sustainable little orchards that dramatically increase access to healthy foods. 

With the challenge of Denver’s climate, it is essential for us to be active stewards of our land.  DUG has spent the last 35 years cultivating in-ground community-based food production but realized that there is so much more (vertical) growing to be done,” said Nessa Mogharreban, DUG’s Director of Physical Infrastructure and Community Engagement.  DUG’s Executive Director Linda Appel Lipsius added, “We fortuitously met Giving Grove as we were formulating our tree strategy – we are thrilled to be kicking off this initiative in partnership with such an intentional, impactful and supportive organization.

After finding success with its model in Kansas City, The Giving Grove began expanding to other cities, launching affiliate programs in St. Louis and Omaha in 2017 and in Memphis, Louisville, rural Kansas, and Cincinnati in 2020.  In addition to Denver, The Giving Grove is expanding to Dallas, Atlanta, and Seattle this spring.  The Giving Grove’s expansion plans include launching affiliates in 10 more U.S. cities by 2025.  

Members of the DUG team recently stopped by Alameda Wholesale Nursery to check out their assortment of trees!

The typical Giving Grove orchard will produce more than 9,800 servings of holistically-grown, free, healthy foods worth more than $8,200 each year.  With a 50-60+ year lifespan, each orchard will produce over its lifetime more than 212,000 servings of food for people in need while sequestering carbon, reducing stormwater runoff, and providing urban tree canopy.

Stay tuned to hear more about DUG’s new Food Forest Initiative, launching in 2022! If you’d like to learn more about how to take care of fruit trees, join us for our upcoming Fruit Tree Pruning workshop with DUG’s new Director of Permaculture and Perennials, Creighton Hofeditz. 

A Letter from Linda: A Year in Review

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What a year. In so many very big ways. 

Happy 2022 – May this year be filled with bountiful health, happiness and joy as we settle into another year of uncertainty. And fingers crossed that you had a peaceful end of the year that is not too far off in your rear view mirror.

Sadly, 2021 ended painfully for those impacted by the double tragedies in our community. It can be hard to hold our heads high when things feel so heavy, but I have been inspired by the immediate community response providing support and love. Our hearts go out to those affected.

We enter 2022 with hope while processing the litany of climate disasters which is making things feel very real – driving home the high impact nature of the work we do at DUG. We support our community in growing healthy, nutrient-rich food, digging in the dirt, healing the soil, sequestering carbon, and capturing rainwater by providing the resources and support to do this critical work. In community.

When individual humans reconnect to the earth, their food, and each other, the foundation of everything gets reinforced making us all stronger, more resilient, and more connected.

I am as passionate about this work as ever and believe that we need to inspire everyone to grow their own.

I’m just over a year in at Denver Urban Gardens, I look back on 2021 with awe of what Team DUG has accomplished and boundless enthusiasm for what lies ahead.

We spent 2021 strengthening the foundation of this organization. With 190 community gardens across six counties in metro Denver, we realized (with input from DUG stakeholders and partners) that we needed to provide a higher level of on the ground support to ensure that each and every DUG garden was resourced to thrive. However, with only one person overseeing the human infrastructure and one overseeing the physical infrastructure at the time, we realized we needed more “juice.” 

So we kicked off two new DUG initiatives – the Baseline Infrastructure Initiative (BII) and the DUG Corps. 

The BII identified gardens that demonstrated the most need – improvement, repairs or addition of physical structures and garden leadership. In the spring, we expected we’d be able to reach 10 gardens but ended up reaching 25 with the enthusiastic support of our funding community who got behind this work. 2022 will bring even more improvements to more gardens, including the addition of sustainability features thanks to the largest-ever grant given by engineering firm HDR!

We also piloted the DUG Corps, our green workforce. With a cohort of 3, we were able to visit every single garden in our vast network, organize educational and social events for every Micro Network (there are 7 total), and hear the voice of our gardeners in a way we haven’t been able to in years since our rapid expansion.

All pretty magical stuff.

Our signature food access program, Grow a Garden, had a strong year (we sold out of kits) and is unveling exciting improvements & enhancements in 2022! Learn about the changes we’re making to the program here

Last but not least, DUG Education flourished, teaching kids and grownups alike about the wonders of getting outside and growing your own food. We have expanded our scope to include Early Childhood Education (ECE),  acknowledging that so many behaviors get established at a very young age and that parent involvement is highest with the youngest children.  We realized our work could be even more impactful by bringing this adorable population into the fold. So far we’ve done compost classes for the littles (worms in hands) and are are planning full menu of activities to get the little ones digging in the dirt and eating their vegetables!

Thank you for your support this year. Things are changing quickly, and the value of our work keeps growing. We are built on community and look forward to making the most out of 2022 in partnership.

Please get involved with DUG in a new way this year! Maybe garden with us, take a class or workshop, connect with other gardeners at DUG Online, give back to your community, or support our work.  We are honored to be in this together.

With Gratitude,
Linda Appel Lipsius

2022 Grow a Garden Program Updates

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When the pandemic first hit in April of 2020, DUG responded to the immediate need for people to access nutritious food with new To-Grow Boxes, garden kits that made it easy for families to start growing their own organic food at home.

Over the last two years, we’ve distributed more than 1,100 To Grow Boxes along with more than 20,000 seedlings +50,000 seedlings in our longstanding food access program, Grow a Garden (which has been going strong since 1997!). During that time, we asked program participants to share more about their needs and what they like about the programs.

This year, we’re excited to share that we are combining the most successful elements of each program to bring a new and improved Grow a Garden program.

This year, participants can select from 5 different
Grow A Garden Kits.

In order to continue to serve the largest number of community members who rely on this vital program to access fresh and unprocessed food, we are streamlining the order by offering participants five different kit options that contain seeds and seedlings of veggies, herbs, and flowers that work well together. 

Salsa Garden Kit
Pizza Garden Kit
Epic Salad Garden Kit
Fried + Fermented Garden Kit
Thai Garden Kit 

Applications will open Feb 1st and stay open until we are sold out of kits. 

Historically we’ve opened applications for the Grow a Garden program in January of each year. In 2022, the application will go live on February 1st and will accept applications for both groups and individuals on a rolling basis until all Grow A Garden Kits have been claimed.

By extending the program launch and deadline, we’re able to ensure further outreach to communities to ensure folks know about the availability of this program. 

We’re ensuring consistent seed quality.

All of the seeds for our 2022 program are coming from Botanical Interests seed company (out of Broomfield, CO!) rather than relying on a variety of seed donations as in previous seasons. This helps us ensure that all participants know what they’re expecting and we are able to maximize the consistency and quality of our seeds.

We’ve streamlined the distribution window.

Instead of having distribution spaced out over two months between March for seeds and May for seedlings, we’re combining order distribution into one week to ensure all pickups happen in mid-May

We’re expanding education + support offerings.

We know that just equipping folks with seeds and seedlings isn’t enough to ensure a successful bounty. That’s why we’re including our Plant Care Growing Guide with every kit, which offers custom plot planting layouts and expert advice to help you grow your skills as you grow your garden. 

We’re also continuing to expand DUG Online, our virtual community forum where you can meet other gardeners, ask questions, get advice from our gardening pros, and come together in community around the love of growing!

We also hope you will join us for the inaugural Great Day of Planting – a city-wide day of planting on May 14th!

Join with thousands of gardeners–backyards to rooftops to community gardens– and get your garden started!

We’re bringing the idea of ‘gardening in community’ to life with the goal of getting 10,000 people to pledge to grow a garden this year! After a morning spent at work planting, gardeners are invited to meet up for an amazing afternoon of family-friendly connection with fellow neighborhood gardeners!

Lot’s more details to come, but mark your calendars now!  

2021 Youth Education Highlights

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It has been a big year for youth education at Denver Urban Gardens! We continue to believe that the lessons offered in a garden are life changing for children of all backgrounds.

Through our programs and resources for young people, students experience the wonders of a garden with opportunities for hands-on lessons in: health, earth and life sciences, math, literacy, social science and community building. Read on to see what’s new with DUG’s Youth Education as we head into the new year!

Growing Gardeners Initiative

DUG aspires to provide children with experiences in community gardens that cultivate a sense of wonder, awe, and appreciation. 

Through DUG’s youth education programs, we have created a long-term initiative called Growing Gardeners, with the intent of designing programming for children at key points in their development, providing memorable and meaningful experiences for youth in the garden. We see DUG gardens as a place for children, especially young ones, to learn about the interconnections of nature in real-time, with kids getting dirty digging in the dirt and being outside for health and well-being. Gardens provide places for unstructured, experiential, sensory – based learning that involve children holistically in their education process, allowing them to view learning as a cycle, deepening their roots of understanding.

For older children and teens, the garden is a place to experience the value of living in community and to further establish life-long habits eating healthy foods. Teens have the opportunity to build skills that lead to future employment and to deepen their understanding of where our food comes from and the injustices within our systems when it comes to accessing healthy food. Teenagers discover that there is value to nature – based exploration beyond what can be gained indoors on their electronic devices.

DUG is working with Centrality Reearch, a community-centric organization, to evaluate our efforts as we develop relevant and meaningful programs for our youth audiences.Some key partners that have made this project possible include Denver Public Schools (DPS), PEBC, Catholic Charities, Clayton Early Learning, and the Colorado ECE to Farm Coalition. Funding for this initiative is being supported this year by grant funds from the City and County of Denver Healthy Food for Denver’s Kids Initiative, USDA, and the DPS Foundation of Denver Public Schools.

Teacher Training Cohort

For the 2021-2022 school year, DUG is also collaborating with a cohort of twelve teachers from elementary schools in Denver Public Schools within DUG’s school-based community garden network: Fairview, Goldrick, Maxwell, Sabin, and Escuela Valdez.

The year started with a kick-off workshop in September, developed in partnership with PEBC, a national leader in teacher professional development, and focused on addressing this question:  In what ways might we engage learners in garden-based science that grows their identities as scientists and invites them to inquire?

DUG is meeting with these dedicated teachers monthly throughout the school year, and the action research consists of implementing strategies to improve their teaching practice, in particular in science teaching while also utilizing the garden as an outdoor learning space. With this sharing of ideas and resources, our intention is to help teachers be more comfortable with teaching outdoors, using the garden as a space for learning especially when it comes to teaching science. 

Cooking Classes with Slow Food Denver

In partnership with Slow Food Denver, DUG is supporting students in upper elementary grades with cooking classes. During the height of the pandemic, these classes were offered to students virtually, and the students learned how to cook meals in their homes, often cooking with their parents and caretakers. These classes have continued into this school year with face-to-face classes. With the support of HFDK funds, DUG was able to support 186 students, providing 1,456 meals.

Farmer Dave Video Series

In the digital realm, we’ve partnered with Farmer Dave and Friends and PBS12 to release a series of educational videos about botanical learning. These videos range from how DUG uses rainwater in our gardens to making friends and singing garden songs.

Summer Teen Interns

Through a partnership with Groundwork Denver, DUG hosted 7 high school interns working in DUG gardens this summer.. These local teens pulled weeds, planted, watered, and composted in 9 of the 12 gardens in their own neighborhood.  To supplement their learning, DUG hosted sessions for the students in cooking, creative writing, video production, a garden tour at Mental Health Center of Denver, and a special cooking class with DJ Cavem.

Intern Spotlight: Meet Ty Scott

Ty Scott grew up in the Sun Valley neighborhood and attended Fairview Elementary, the home of DUG’s oldest school-based community garden. Recently, Ty, now 17 years old, reconnected with Senior Education Specialist, Judy Elliott, remembering the classes Judy used to teach at Fairview when Ty was a child. This summer, DUG hired Ty to work in the Fairview garden, tending to several plots for the past six months and learning how to garden with Judy. Ty is passionate about growing plants and the importance of eating healthy. He’s a student at the Academy of Urban Learning in Denver and currently works at the new Decatur Fresh Market in Sun Valley. Ty is also featured in a new video series DUG is supporting that features Farmer Dave on PBS.

Vermicomposting Classes

Master Composter Luz Croghan is taking her skills in composting into the classroom for DUG, running programs for kids ages 3-5 at our partnering schools. Students are able to learn about vermicomposting, getting an up close and personal look at red wiggler worms and how compost is made. As part of these classes, teachers also have the opportunity to get their own worm bin to start composting at their school.  Luz offers the program in English or Spanish.  For more information, contact us at programs@dug.org

Colorado Gives Day 2021

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Colorado Gives Day, Colorado’s largest annual day of giving, is right around the corner! We invite you to support our growing movement as we plant the seeds for an abundant 2022. 

Supporting DUG on Colorado Gives Day is an investment in greater food security, deeply connected communities, and a greener metro Denver full of thriving people with the skills and resources to build a localized, thriving, healthy food system.

By making a gift on Colorado Gives Day, your donation’s impact is increased by counting toward earning us a part of the $1.265 million Colorado Gives Day Incentive Fund! All participating Colorado Gives Day nonprofits earn a percentage of the fund, so the more we raise, the more we get!

In 2021, utilizing funds from 2020’s Colorado Gives Day, we have been able to make vital impact across Metro Denver, including: 

  • Improving equity across our gardens by increasing accessibility to 25+ gardens through our Baseline Infrastructure Initiative
  • Adding key workforce development positions with the inception of our apprenticeship program and the DUG Corps
  • Activating gardeners to donate more than 66,000 pounds of food 
  • Distributing more than 15,000 seedlings through the Grow a Garden program and the Baseline Infrastructure Initiative 
  • Launching our new volunteer platform to better engage our more than 900 volunteers who gave over 2,000 hours towards their communities 
  • Providing 1,456 meals and supporting 186 students with healthy cooking classes in 6 schools through local partnerships
  • Offering organic education to more than 1,027 community members

When you give to DUG, your support goes beyond just the garden bed, but into the community for a lifetime.

Tito’s Block to Block Volunteer Days

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This Fall, volunteers and DUG staff came together to make our Tito’s Block To Block workdays a huge success – and a ton of fun!

Thank you to all of the amazing volunteers who showed up on a weekend to help us construct and fill 36 new plots as part of rebuilding the Cook Park Community Garden

And a huge thank you to our partner for these workdays – Tito’s Handmade Vodka! We are so grateful for their generous support of this project, and dedication to increasing access to fresh organic produce in metro Denver. Read the full Thrillest article on how this Vodka Company is Reviving Community Gardens and Farms All Across America here.

Sad you missed out on all the fun? You don’t have to be! Check out upcoming volunteer opportunities with DUG here.

Our 189th Garden has Launched!

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We’re thrilled to share that the Stober Community Garden, located at Stober Elementary School in Lakewood, CO, is 95% complete and taking names for people interested in plots for planting in Spring of 2022! 

Interested in joining? Contact the Garden Leaders at stoberschoolcommunitygarden@dug.org.

Five years ago, Richard Cooper-Ribner, a lifelong gardener and resident of Applewood, first had the idea to build a community garden in the neighborhood alongside a couple fellow gardeners. He and his neighbors started a free produce market across the corner from Stober Elementary, and over time the market stand evolved, finding its new home on the school grounds to involve and engage students in the process of how food is grown.

Richard and others regularly attended the annual JeffCo Garden Symposium where they connected with educators at neighboring schools like DUG’s Green Gables School and Community Garden to learn more about their process of seeking funding for a garden through grants. 

From there, the founding neighbors brought this idea for a community garden on the grounds of a school to others within the Sustainable Applewood Neighborhood group and to Stober Elementary principal, Anne DiCola, who jumped in enthusiastically to support the project. Anne brought the idea to the JeffCo Public Schools and championed the garden as an invaluable resource for both the school and the community as a whole. By working together with community members of Sustainable Applewood, the Applewood Valley Association, Stober Elementary, and the Stober PTA, they set to work to bring this collective vision to life.

DUG was first brought to the table to support the initial design process and then later for the actual construction process.

With the support of an incredible volunteer grant writer & community member, and with significant neighborhood fundraising, the Stober Community Garden planning group secured enough funds to move forward with the build. 

When it came time to break ground this spring, DUG organized a series of workdays for the construction of the garden, while also working with the local community to support the organizational setup. Early this fall, DUG also helped to organize a workday where the Stober Elementary students helped plant cover crop seeds and perennials along with their “hopes and dreams” in the garden. 

Now that the garden has been brought to life, we caught up with a few members of the project, including Richard, as well as Julie Auch and Sarah Claus, to hear more about what benefits they hope will be reaped in the garden and the Applewood community over the coming years. They talked about how special the project has been for bringing the community together to work towards a common goal, and what it means to have a multi-generational meeting place that provides learning and social opportunities for adults and children alike. 

The Stober Community Garden had their first fall pie social in late October, and looks forward to hosting new community events including the annual seed share and produce market in the garden next year. This community is excited to see the garden become a hub for the neighborhood and to grow their green thumbs together!