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.
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.
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).
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.