We are thrilled to announce three new members to the DUG Board of Directors. Tim Craft, founder of Craft Companies, Jesse Ogas, Executive Director of Social Responsibility and Corporate Engagement at 9News, and Chris Shaffner, Senior Vice President at CoBank have joined the DUG Board for a two-year term beginning July 2022.
Meet Tim Craft
Tim is the founder of Craft Companies, a Denver-based real estate development firm that is transforming the future of home building through responsible, sustainable, and innovative practices that set a higher standard for future development. This is achieved by creating clustered developments, preserving open space and starry skies, incorporating pocket parks, solar lights and energy saving practices.
Recognized for national design excellence, Tim and his team are currently working with five local counties and municipalities to deliver communities that maximize natural resources through responsible land planning, preservation of open space and green technology.
An active partner in the communities where they create neighborhoods, Craft Companies’ hosted the HBA’s 2021 Parade of Homes Industry Night at their conservation-focused Independence Community.
Meet Jesse Ogas
Prior to joining the non-profit sector in 2006, Jesse worked in the retail industry where he worked on Regional teams and as a GM leading several big box stores in Colorado and Utah. After a 17-year career as a GM, he decided to take his knowledge to help the non-profit industry to think about philanthropy differently. Under Ogas’ 9 yr leadership, Firefly Autism has grown to serve families and children with autism across Colorado and is considered one the leading agencies in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy nationally and internationally.
Ogas is a proud member of one of the nation’s prominent Latino Theater companies, Su Teatro. He is a community advocate that has served on a variety of nonprofit Boards, including Colorado Aids Project, Tepeyac Community Health Center, Kemp Foundation, Latina Safehouse, Newsed Development Corporation, Adams Camp, Latina Safehouse, and the MSU President’s Cabinet. Currently, he serves on Tepeyac Community Health, Firefly Autism, Newsed, and 365 Health. He is a recipient of the Eric J. Duran Community Service Award, which honors a person of Latino descent who has made a positive impact in the Denver community.
Ogas was the 2021 9NEWS Leader of the Year, which is presented by the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation. Ogas also recently participated in 9NEWS’ Voices of Change initiative during Hispanic Heritage month. Voices of Change is an ongoing conversation that amplifies voices of community members who are provoking change toward building an equitable, inclusive, and flourishing Colorado.
Today Ogas leads the DEI efforts with 9News as the Executive Director of Social Responsibility and Community Engagement. He just successfully relaunched the 9Listens Community Voices event, is working on the relaunch of 9Who Care, and rebuilding alliances in all the communities in which 9News serves.
Meet Chris Shaffner
Chris is the senior vice president and director of business operations for CoBank, a cooperative bank that provides loans, leases, export financing and other financial services to agribusinesses and rural power, water and communications providers in all 50 states.
Chris responsible for the development and execution of bank-wide strategic initiatives impacting loan and investment portfolios, including legislative and regulatory issues, portfolio growth, and customer initiatives. He also leads CoBank’s $3 billion water infrastructure finance business. In 2020, Chris also served on President Biden’s Infrastructure Policy Committee, co-chairing both water and rural subcommittees.
Prior to joining CoBank in 2015, Chris held various leadership positions in both public and private organizations, including private equity funds management in excess of $1 billion. He also headed borough operations for the New York City Housing Authority, where he led a team of 1,500 responsible for operating Manhattan’s 60,000 public housing units.
Mr. Shaffner earned a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University, a juris doctor degree from Valparaiso University School of Law, and an MBA from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. He lives in Denver with his wife and two kids and also serves on the Board of Directors of Colorado Youth for a Change.
As we welcome our new board members, we also say goodbye to three long-standing DUG board members, Diana Denwood, Chloe Mickel, and Ramonna Robinson, who collectively have served DUG for the last 10 years. We are so grateful for the extensive time and effort they have each offered to DUG over the years, and wish them the best in their future endeavors.
In the summer of 2020, DUG held our first Listening Tour to engage a variety of stakeholders including gardeners, program participants, garden leaders, workshop attendees, board members, educators and the broader community.
After connecting with hundreds of people through surveys and interviews, we partnered with CSU graduate students to identify critical feedback that vital in reorienting DUG’s Vision Mission and Values in 2021. Information from the Listening Tour also shaped new initiatives and programs such as the Baseline Infrastructure Initiative, DUG Corps, Micro Network events, and more robust leadership for Garden Leaders, among others.
To build on the positive momentum of our first Listening Tour, this summer we’re launching our ‘Listening Tour 2.0‘ across 6 DUG Gardens, specifically targeting groups we may have missed the first time, including educators (who were BUSY during the pandemic!), folks with a first language other than English, and those who may have had difficulty participating in an online survey due to technical barriers.
DUG is proud to be a community-led organization; constant feedback loops are necessary in all our systems and processes. In order to help us build capacity amongst staff to engage in this work, DUG has partnered with Centrality Research, a team specializing in bringing a community-driven voice to organizational decision-making. In May of this year, DUG staff and DUG Corps participated in an Engaging Community Through Conversation training led by Centrality Research in order to continue to develop our team’s community engagement skills as they relate to gathering, using, synthesizing, and implementing community feedback.
We want to dream alongside our communities about all the ways our organization can be a catalyst for community connection, relationship-building, and the shared vision of gardens as spaces of belonging.
One of our goals for this Listening Tour is to reduce barriers to participating in feedback sharing. Our six listening sessions will provide food, tandem children’s activities, interpretation (as needed), and each participant will receive a $25 gift card to King Sooper for participation.
We appreciate you being along for the journey as DUG continues to live our values of earning trust, demonstrating integrity, embracing equity, building community and inspiring curiosity. We are listening. And we can’t wait to hear from you. We look forward to sharing the findings of our Listening Tour 2.0 later this year.
Denver Urban Gardens has spent several decades building a robust network of community gardens across metro Denver. We are thrilled to announce the DUG Advisory Council, composed of nationally and globally recognized experts!
Advisory Council members provide guidance and thought partnership to DUG senior leadership and lift up our work through their networks. We also ask them from time to time to engage in educational opportunities and fundraising events.
Thank you to our 1st Advisory Council Members:
Dana Bryson | Senior Vice President, Social Impact at Study.com
Zach Bush, MD | Physician, Research Scientist, Entrepreneur and internationally recognized educator and thought leader
Steve Culbertson | President & CEO at Youth Service America
Robert Egger | Nonprofit/Power Of Food Advocate & Dedicated Elder Ally
Ryland Englehart | Co-Founder + Executive Director at Kiss The Ground
Beverly Grant | Founder, Mo’ Betta Green MarketPlace
Daniela Ibarra-Howell | CEO and Co-Founder, Savory Institute
Jeff Krasno | Co-Founder, CEO + Podcast Host at Commune; Co-Founder + Executive Chairman at Wanderlust; Author; Conscious Capitalist
Roxanne Moore | Executive Director, Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation
Robert Reiman | CEO for the Giving Grove
As the organization evolves, we have identified six pillars of our work that go far beyond gardening:
Health & Wellness
Food Access & Sovereignty
As we go deeper on these high-impact topics, we seek to both share our voice and hear from voices working in these critical areas beyond our hometown.
Gather ‘Round, Denver Urban Gardens (DUG)’s annual gala, is a celebration of our gardens’ bounty as we welcome the harvest season, and has been a community tradition for over a decade.
Gather ‘Round, Denver Urban Gardens (DUG)’s annual gala, is a celebration of our gardens’ bounty as we welcome the harvest season, and has been a community tradition for over a decade.
This year’s event will be co-hosted by Denver food legends Pete Turner, Dana Rodriguez, and Brad Reubendal. For the first time EVER, we’ll be recognizing and uplifting the work of local and national changemakers with our DUG Impact Awards.
Join us as we celebrate the cross-sector work of individuals, government organizations, NGOs, and coalitions working alongside DUG as we pursue our vision of a sustainable urban future where people are deeply and directly connected to the earth, each other, and the food they eat.
Impact Award Winners:
Ancestral Foodways – Spirit of the Sun
Climate Action – HDR
Community Building – Denver Parks and Recreation
Food Access + Sovereignty – Denver Community Food Access Coalition
Health + Wellness – Zach Bush, MD
Skill Building + Education – Chris Woodburn, Denver Public Schools
Join us on September 8 at Upper Larimer Events in RiNo!
Luxurious seasonal plant-based fare from supper club superstars,
The Easy Vegan
Live music from Americana/Colorado roots band,
David Lawrence & the Spoonful
craft cocktails, exclusive silent auction items, a wine wall, and lots of community fun!
DUG’s new ECE Growing Gardeners Initiative brings younger children into the garden.
.The National Gardening Association reports huge increases in the number of people engaging in gardening, documenting over 18 million new gardeners in the US in 2021. Gardens encourage us to ‘slow down’ and appreciate the interconnected community of soil, plants, and critters while improving our mental health and wellbeing. For children, the garden provides opportunities for cultivating the wonder and joy of experiential learning while connecting to our lifegiving earth and soil.
Denver Urban Gardens’ (DUG) Growing Gardeners Initiative, a Fiscal Year 2021 Farm to School Turnkey Grantee, creates a system of resources for bringing younger children into the garden. Hands-on DUG lessons investigating composting worms under magnifying glasses, engaging in cooking and trying new foods in garden clubs, and planting seeds and seedlings for the season provide students with memorable time in the soil.
Studies show that exposure to gardens at a younger age increases the chance that children will continue to value healthy eating and gardening into adulthood. Working with a cohort of twelve Denver Public Schools early childhood educators, DUG provided year-long training to increase teachers’ comfort level in taking students outside and integrating gardens into their curricula.
The initiative’s first year has been a great success thanks to the commitment of these teachers. Additional lessons, webinars, and video content will be made available on DUG.org upon completion.
Children need unstructured physical activity. As they work to turn the soil and care fortheir baby plants, gardens serve as both guardian and nurturer–an outdoor classroom with quiet, secret places that allow kids to discover that as they care for a plant, they are also protected. They learn the importance of self, that their efforts are important, and that working together and respecting diversity is part of the process of growth.
Moving forward, DUG will support a new cohort of teachers with year-long programming. Local grant funds will further deepen our efforts by incorporating sensory garden plots at selected DUG school-based community gardens.
Check out DUG’s feature in the USDA Farm to School newsletter here.
This spring DUG launched our new Garden Adoption program as an opportunity to ensure all of our gardens are resourced (as identified in our Baseline Infrastructure Initiative) equitably, and we are thrilled to share that 20+ national and local organizations have invested in garden communities across the DUG network.
Their 3-year financial commitment to gardens ensures that they have the necessary resources to thrive by providing funding for infrastructure improvements, such as new pathways, plot borders, or water tanks, as well as for seasonal resources like compost, seedlings, and straw.
As part of their adoption commitments, the organizations also have an opportunity to do a seasonal teambuilding workday in partnership with community members of the garden and care for a plot in the garden (if available).
The gang from Illegal Pete’s (who adopted 7 gardens around Denver!) has a workday to tend their shared plot in the Baker Community Garden.
Denver City Council President (representing Far Northeast Denver District 11) Stacie Gilmore stopped by Montbello 5 Loaves to visit the garden during a recent workday.
Look out for these workdays in a garden near you!
Amazon recently held their workday at the Montbello Fives Loaves Community Garden. Brittany Morris Saunders, Head of Community Affairs for Amazon in Denver, shared “We are delighted to see our partnership with Denver Urban Gardens at the Montbello Five Loaves Community Garden come to fruition. This invaluable resource not only provides healthy food to the community but also brings the neighborhood together for community building and educational opportunities.”
Our gardens sustain the neighborhoods in which we live by building community, regenerating the soil, providing the essential skills– including the ability to grow your own food– all while supporting health and wellness. It takes a village (or a garden) to help care for our great city and we deeply appreciate all of our garden adopters’ commitments to our community and the environment.
We look forward to deepening the roots of these amazing partnerships in the years to come!
Learn more about Garden Adoption here.
This season, seven wonderful 2022 DUG Corps members are here to support DUG gardens and host Micro Network events. Please help us welcome Chris, Cydnie, Danielle, Lauren, Marisa, Tanisha, and Taylor – and look for them in a garden near you!
Chris spent most of his life in the mountains of West Virginia and Maryland, but always hoped to venture west. After college, he moved to Denver seeking adventure, more time outdoors, and new opportunities. Upon arriving in Colorado, Chris followed his curiosity and started working for a major cannabis company as a horticulturist. During that time, he absorbed a wealth of knowledge about plant science, and his passion for plants truly blossomed. Ever since, Chris has devoured any resources he can find about gardening and permaculture, and he endeavors each summer to improve his own backyard garden. Chris is so excited to serve with DUG because he believes wholeheartedly in DUG’s mission, and feels grateful for the opportunity to connect with gardeners from his community.
Cydnie has recently returned to her home state of CO from the city/state where Agriculture is the number one industry, Kansas City, MO and Kansas City, Kansas. For 7 years, she dedicated her life in service to others in Hospitals as a Certified Nursing Assistant. Facing burnout from working on the Frontlines during the onset of the Pandemic in 2020 and 2021, she decided to shift gears. The Denverite has been an avid gardener in her young adult years, and realized it all started with gardening with her mother as a child. Her love for nature and the outdoors was only exacerbated by growing up in Colorado! Her father, a native New Yorker, became a "Black Cowboy" (in his heart, at least) when he moved to CO in the late 70's and could only spread his joy for the "Wild West" to his children--taking them skiing, horseback riding, camping, fishing, white water rafting and hiking whenever he could!
Cydnie now appreciates her CO upbringing more than ever (though she still isn't too fond of all the snow). She is proud to serve her home City in the DUG Corps. In her free time, when not tending to her own garden, Cydnie enjoys expressing herself in all things musically, and enjoys writing as well.
Danielle grew up in rural Iowa. She has 15 years of marketing and project management experience. Her passion is aliveness and wishes to be a participatory human. Her love of plants, soil, and community brought her back into the DUG community in 2022 to fulfill her passions and be part of something united.
She completed DUG’s Master Gardener Program in 2010 to help a school garden she funded, developed, and taught at for over 10 years. Danielle also wrote her own garden curriculum in which she managed and taught for 10 years. All of this with kids eventually inspired her to start her own business in 2017 as a personal / ecopsychologist and yoga instructor for adult humans. Her greatest teachers have been plants….and it all started for her at a school garden.
She strongly believes that school and community gardens revitalize something and believes it helps bring nature to the human soul in an urban setting. Fast forward 20 years, she is now back at DUG wanting to serve the community.
Lauren is originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She moved out to Denver two years ago to attend graduate school and just graduated with her M.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics from Metropolitan State University of Denver. Her favorite hobby is traveling and learning everything that she can about new areas.
Growing up in New Jersey with a food-loving Italian family, Marisa learned to celebrate community and express gratitude while sharing fresh, handmade meals. Starting off as a restaurant server, she quickly became passionate about cultivating an equitable and sustainable food system. While working and going to school in Burlington, Vermont, she campaigned alongside migrant farmworkers for labor and housing rights on dairy farms and moved to Denver in 2021 where she began coordinating gleans with UpRoot Colorado. Marisa holds a B.A. in Anthropology and Global Studies from the University of Vermont. In her free time, she enjoys hiking with friends, drawing, and riding her bike.
Tanisha S. Diggs lives in Aurora, Colorado and she is a current scholar with Kansas State University pursuing a B.S. in Animal Science and Industry-Production Management, anticipated graduation is May 2024. She is a new inductee of The Mortar Board Honor Society - who values scholarship, leadership & service to aid those in need. Tanisha found her affinity for animal care early in childhood and began pursuing a career in veterinary medicine. She was certified by The Colorado Association of Certified Veterinary Technicians in 2009, and worked in the veterinary field for 15 years.
A Servant to the community is a role where Tanisha excels. She volunteers at a local farm, leading tours and teaching 4-H students about poultry husbandry. Tanisha uses her adept knowledge as a Master Composter and Master Community Gardener to partner with growers who promote healthy lifestyle changes that heal the soul. Her service to Americorps is two-fold - first to be the change that others are expecting, by connecting with those who are in need. Second, to role model the way for her children what it means to be a good steward and servant of the community. In her free time, Tanisha is the mother of two teenage sons, and a fur parent of a mischievously intelligent border collie.
Taylor has a long background in leading and directing summer day camps and after-school programs, seizing any opportunity to introduce methods of environmental education and exploration into the lessons, activities, and field trips. An AmeriCorps alumni, gaining experience in multi-use trail building/management, home construction, and farming, Taylor has joined DUG as an AmeriCorps service member with DUG Corps. Amidst the extensive work experience, Taylor simultaneously worked to earn her Bachelors in Geography and Environmental Sciences at CU Denver in 2021. Her free time is primarily occupied with maintaining her home garden with her cat, Johnathan.
Meet our DUG Corps Members at a Micro Event Near You!
These events are designed to strengthen skills in gardening and composting as well as create opportunities to connect across the DUG Network.
We’re thrilled to annouced that Denver Urban Gardens has been named as a Finalist of Fast Company’s
2022 World-Changing Ideas Awards!
The winners of Fast Company’s 2022 World-Changing Ideas Awards were announced May 3rd, honoring clean technology, innovative corporate initiatives, brave new designs for cities and buildings, and other creative works that are supporting the growth of positive social innovation, tackling social inequality, climate change, and public health crises.
Now in its sixth year, the World Changing Ideas Awards showcase 39 winners, 350 finalists, and more than 600 honorable mentions—with climate, social justice, and AI and data among the most popular categories. A panel of eminent Fast Company editors and reporters selected winners and finalists from a pool of more than 2,997 entries across transportation, education, food, politics, technology, health, social justice, and more. In addition, several new categories have been added this year including climate, nature, water, and workplace. The 2022 awards feature entries from across the globe, from Switzerland to Hong Kong to Australia.
Fast Company’s Summer 2022 issue will showcase some of the world’s most inventive entrepreneurs and companies tackling global challenges. The issues highlight, among others, probiotics for coral reefs, easy-to-assemble kit homes for refugees or disaster survivors, a 3D printed vaccine patch, an electric truck, a system to heat homes from the waste heat of a name-brand factory, and prosecutor-initiated resentencing for overly long prison sentences.
“We are consistently inspired by the novelty and creativity that people are applying to solve some of our society’s most pressing problems, from shelter to the climate crisis. Fast Company relishes its role in amplifying important, innovative work to address big challenges,” says David Lidsky, interim editor-in-chief of Fast Company. “Our journalists have identified some of the most ingenious initiatives to launch since the start of 2021, which we hope will both have a meaningful impact and lead others to join in being part of the solution.”
About the World Changing Ideas Awards: World Changing Ideas is one of Fast Company’s major annual awards programs and is focused on social good, seeking to elevate finished products and brave concepts that make the world better. A panel of judges from across sectors choose winners, finalists, and honorable mentions based on feasibility and the potential for impact. With the goals of awarding ingenuity and fostering innovation, Fast Company draws attention to ideas with great potential and helps them expand their reach to inspire more people to start working on solving the problems that affect us all.
DUG is thrilled and honored to be able to magnify the power of gardens through this nomination. Read the full list of award winners here.