Category

News

The Wonder Garden is now open!

By News

In May, Denver Urban Gardens had the pleasure of coming together as a community to dedicate the new Wonder Garden at Wyatt Academy, located in the Cole neighborhood. The Wonder Garden was funded by Jerry Conover in memorium to his wife, Jaquelyn Wonder.

The dedication party was a wonderful time to celebrate being able to gather again in the garden. Guests (including Wyatt Academy students who stole the show with excitement from the classroom butterfly release!) were treated to mariachi music and delicious local food as the DUG community celebrated the life and impact of Jacquelyn Wonder, as well as witnessed how her legacy will grow with future students experiencing the wonder of gardening.

We caught up with Jerry after the dedication to learn more about his decision to leave a garden legacy in honor of his late wife. Here’s what he had to say:

“The Wonder Garden at Wyatt Academy is such a perfect memorial to my late wife, Jacquelyn Wonder.

Jaquelyn and I met in the late ‘70s. We were both divorced and a mutual friend introduced us. We were married for almost 40 years. She had 3 kids and I have 4, so we have a large combined family with 15 grandkids.

Jacquelyn was a woman who overcame adversity, both in the form of family poverty and illness, and she made it on her own. Education was so important to her. After graduating from Denver’s East High school, she went on to earn her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and had a successful career in teaching and consulting and as an author.

Since we’ve been together, Jacquelyn always loved gardens. We lived in East Denver and gardening was one of her primary hobbies and loves.

When we moved downtown 12 years ago, a condition of our moving was that she had to have a garden. We were fortunate to find a place in LoDo that happened to have a 2,400 square foot deck, which we then made into a rooftop garden. She was able to downsize from a conventional house to more urban living, and still retain the beauty and enjoyment from having a home garden.

In the middle of the city, I have this little enclave of nature right outside my door that has perennials, annuals, trees, and birdfeeders. I wake up to birds singing; it’s a great way to start my day. It’s been a lovely reminder of how much she loved gardening.

When I knew that I wanted to dedicate a community garden in Jacquelyn’s memory, I asked DUG where the best place for us to support a new garden would be.

DUG gave me a list of half a dozen sites. I looked at all of them, and then we went to talk to Andrew and Kate, the directors of Wyatt Academy. It turned out that the timing and school were just right.

Jacquelyn overcame learning disabilities throughout her life and one of her interests was how people learn and how the brain works. The idea of openness and creativity were always themes in her life.

DUG’s model of partnering with schools is really a win-win deal. The educational partnership made that much more sense. Seeing the success of Wyatt Academy really resonated with me. They had just done their goal-setting for the year, and one of their core values for the school was “wonder”- which was serendipitous.

It was DUG’s introduction to the prospect of a garden there that began the journey. I’ve been familiar with the neighborhood for quite a while because it’s close to Manual High School where my own kids attended. The neighborhood has a wonderful history to it.

It’s been an inspiration to work with the school. Their connection with the community is just wonderful. They have a community-based social services center that provides meals, supplies, and assistance to the families of the kids who attend the school and to the community generally. The school has become part of that community in a most effective way. I know Jacquelyn would have loved the site of the garden just as much as I do.

The building process took less than two years. Through our family’s Donor-Advised Fund at the Denver Foundation, I was able to provide the funding for the garden. DUG and Wyatt Academy took charge right off the bat! The short time it took to complete is a tribute to the rapid and nimble response of DUG, the school, and other small charities. The Community Coordinator at Wyatt, Maria Estrada, is an unbelievably talented woman.

Working with the DUG team and all of the school representatives was just a joy for me. It was a pleasure not to be burdened by bureaucracy during the process. Katherine Smith introduced me to the sculptor Peter Durst, whose birdhouse sculptures are now displayed in the garden. The playful nature of his sculptures fits right in with the garden’s theme of wonder and connection to nature. The bird sculptures were created by Joan Walker.

I would love to see the sculptures at the Wonder garden inspire further installations of public art. Denver’s mandate that 2% of the budget goes to public art show how important the arts are to our community. Bringing in three-dimensional art seemed to be a natural next step in a community garden. Finding a way to display art publicly contributes to the fabric of our community.

DUG’s Baseline Infrastructure Initiative (BII)

By News

In 2020, DUG sought feedback from more than 500 stakeholders in order to gain insight into what our community members needed from DUG. The feedback had a common theme: community gardeners and Garden Leaders wanted and needed more of DUG. Our gardeners asked for more support, education, leadership training, community building, and to ensure equity across the network. In response, in 2021 DUG launched our new Baseline Infrastructure Initiative (BII).

The BII is a holistic program centered on establishing and increasing equity across DUG’s entire network of community gardens. The BII has 3 core areas: Physical, Human, and Resource to ensure that all 188 of our gardens are resourced at an equitable level to support a thriving community garden producing optimum yield. To achieve these outcomes, we’ll be focusing on the addition of 3 key elements: the DUG Corps, the Francisco Cordero Apprenticeship, and collecting better data to drive decisions.

BII Success looks like:

All garden plots are fully utilized.

To achieve this outcome, DUG will provide translators and on-the-ground support for plot applications to overcome language and technology barriers, develop and distribute multilingual resources for DUG mentorship and educational programming, recruit representational leadership at all gardens, and provide support for community-building events including through DUG Corps and paid apprentices.

All gardens meet a baseline physical infrastructure standard.

This entails completing regular repairs and improvements to at-need gardens, including providing water access, shade structures, and tool storage. This also looks like delivering resources like compost, seeds, and seedlings, regardless of a garden’s ability to pay.

Interested in supporting a specific project within the Baseline Infrastructure Initiative?

Contact Executive Director Linda Appel Lipsius.

DONATE TO SUPPORT THE BII

June 2021 Update

With the support of our new apprentice, DUG has already begun the process of several garden upgrades as well as new garden construction to create enhanced gathering areas, better sustainability + conservation features, and inclusive, multilingual signage. Our new DUG Corps team members are focusing on assisting more new gardeners, facilitating quicker garden repairs and maintenance, and building community at the gardens and across the Micro-Networks by providing a conduit for gardener feedback to-and-from DUG HQ.

To-Grow Boxes are back!

By News

Last year, DUG distributed 1,000 To-Grow Boxes across Metro Denver in response to the pandemic and the need for people to have access to fresh local healthy food.

Read more about our 2020 impact here

This year, To-Grow Boxes are back, but in a limited quantity–so order yours early!

Each To-Grow box comes with 28 seedlings + 10 seed packets of nutrient-dense plants, including vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Whether you decide to grow directly in the ground, in a raised bed, or in containers, you’ll have enough seeds and seedlings to fill a 10′ x 10′ area.

Our To-Grow Box also come with our Plant Care Guide and DUG-designed plot planting layouts so you can easily plant in both May and again in July for harvest throughout the summer into the fall. Participants also get specialized access within the DUG Network, including growing tips + reminders specific to To-Grow Boxes, and a community circle of people also growing alongside you.

To-Grow Boxes will only be available for contact-less pick up at the DUG office (located within the Posner Center) on Saturday, May 15th from 10am to 1pm. We will not be able to arrange another distribution time, so please only order a box if you or someone you trust is able to pick up your box on May 15th.

Cost per box: $125

Order your To-Grow Box
Sunflower

Join us for Earth Week April 19th-23rd

By News

Join DUG each day at lunchtime (from 12pm-1pm MT) between April 19th and April 23rd to hear from local experts, partners, and policy-makers who will be weighing in on topics including food waste, soil building, healthy kids, climate action, and wellness–as well as sharing how you can take action towards a more sustainable future.

This is a free event, but pre-registration is required.

Learn more about our panelists.

Staff Spotlight: Meet Brittany

By News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Letter from our Executive Director

By News

What a year.

 

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

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

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

Read our 2020 Impact Report

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Linda Appel Lipsius

Denver Urban Gardens Executive Director

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

By News

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

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

Time: 5:30-7:00pm

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

Meet your chef

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

 

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

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

What’s on the menu…

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

Meet your entertainment

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

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

Listen to more of The Dollhouse Thieves

Tickets

$250 | VIP Sit Back and Relax Package for Two 

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

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

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

$150 | Table for Two

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

Get your tickets now

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

2021 Grow a Garden applications open January 1st!

By News

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

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

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

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

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