How Denver got growing: our 2020 COVID-response impact

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For the last 23 years, DUG has been fighting food insecurity in metro Denver through our Grow a Garden program, which connects individuals, families, and community groups to free and low-cost seeds + seedlings, as well as the educational resources to grow a thriving garden at home or in a DUG garden.


When ‘COVID-19’ became the word of 2020 in early March, none of us at DUG knew quite what to expect for our organization, but we did know one thing – that metro Denver residents needed access to fresh, healthy food more than ever. In April, as supermarket shelves emptied, schools and businesses closed, and people lost their jobs in record numbers, we sprang into action to ensure we could meet the needs of our community. 

In addition to our long-standing Grow a Garden program, we also introduced our emergency To-Grow Boxes, a perfect-for-beginners garden kit that combined seeds, seedlings, and a bilingual Plant Care Guide to show folks how to grow enough veggies and herbs in a 10’ x 10’ plot to support the nutrition needs of a family of four from summer into fall. Thanks to the generous financial and product contributions from our corporate partners, including Sprouts’ Healthy Community Foundation and Botanical Interests, we were able to gift more than 800 To-Grow Boxes to the community.   

In May, coordinating both Grow a Garden and the To-Grow Boxes, we distributed nearly 48,000 seedlings and 29,000 seed packets with the help of more than 200 volunteers and our incredible community partners: Metro Caring, The GrowHaus, Montbello Organizing Committee, Denver Food Rescue, Sprout City Farms, Ekar Farms, Re:Vision, Denver Community Active Living Coalition, Community Care Collective and DeLaney Community Farm.

Learn more about the impact of our 2020 food access programs below, and check out our Faces of DUG profile of Jean, whose To-Grow Box helped build stronger community ties during COVID!

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Saying goodbye to long-term DUG contractor and friend, Francisco Cordero

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It is with deep sadness that we share the news that DUG’s long-time contractor and friend, Francisco Cordero suffered a heart attack due to COVID related complications after being in the ICU for several weeks, and passed away on Monday, November 23rd. We are devastated by the loss of such a good, kind and generous man. Our hearts are broken and he will be missed dearly.

Francisco did so much incredible work to positively transform Denver. He would bend over backwards at every turn to help DUG out when one of our gardens needed his skills and support. DUG’s network of gardens would not be what it is today without him.

We have set up a Gofundme page to help support the Cordero family. He leaves behind his wonderful family, wife and kids. Let’s all wrap around them and give them the love that Francisco gave to everyone that he knew. Please give what you can and from the bottom of our hearts, thank you for being a part of the DUG family.

Donate to the Cordero family

Es con profunda tristeza que compartimos la noticia de que el contratista y amigo de DUG, Francisco Cordero sufrió un paro cardíaco debido a complicaciones relacionadas con el COVID después de estar en la UCI durante varias semanas, y falleció el lunes 23 de noviembre. Estamos devastados por la pérdida de un hombre tan bueno, amable y generoso. Nuestros corazones están destrozados y lo extrañaremos profundamente.

Francisco hizo un trabajo increíble para transformar a Denver positivamente. Él haría todo lo posible para ayudar a DUG cuando algún jardín de DUG necesitaba de sus habilidades y apoyo. La red de jardines comunitarios de DUG no sería lo que es hoy sin él.

Creamos esta página de gofundme para apoyar a la familia Cordero. El deja atrás a su maravillosa familia, esposa e hijos. Vamos a llenarlo de amor y apoyarlos de la misma forma que Francisco lo hacía. El le dió amor a todos los que conocía. Por favor, den lo que puedan y desde el fondo de nuestro corazón, GRACIAS por ser parte de la familia DUG.

To the family of Francisco Cordero: 

From his long-time friend and work colleague, Michael Buchenau

Francisco was one of my dearest friends and closest work colleagues. We were introduced through our landscape work over 20 years ago, and we grew to be great friends over that extended period of time. We took every opportunity together to talk about our families and our children, our favorite sports and teams, and even politics and world affairs. We spent personal time at Rockies and Broncos games, and my wife Krista and I often had Francisco over for a beer or impromptu dinner after work, and of course he would come each time bearing gifts of homemade pecans, salsa, carnitas, tamales, or chills, and always a gift bottle of tequila. And I’m reminded at this time of year of one of our most memorable family Thanksgiving celebrations spent with Francisco at our table. He loved our children and they loved him. 

He and I shared many of the same views and passions, as well as the value of hard, honest work, and the satisfaction of a job well done. In the over 20 years that we worked together, he and I never exchanged a single harsh or unkind word with each other. I had a deep respect for Francisco and knew that he would do anything for me. Our work held us together and I always imagined that one day he and I would be two old men on a porch reminiscing about all of our great projects and sharing the joys of our lives together. I even hoped that one day my wife and I would get to visit him at his home in Mexico and share in the joy that he felt so deeply there. But life doesn’t often follow the path of our dreams, and so sadly that day on the porch will never come for Francisco and I. I am left however with the memories of the quality time we did get to spend together, often on the job site at the end of the day, where we would linger and talk about the simply pleasures that life had to offer.   

Francisco was one of a kind. He was the most positive, optimistic, “can-do” contractor that anyone will ever know. He did whatever he could to build what I designed, and he worked with me to look for improvements to my plans during the construction phase of each project. He was always willing to go beyond what was needed, and re-do work until I was satisfied. In Francisco’s mind, every morning dawned a new day to do great work. He was both a skilled technician and an artisan when it came to masonry, grading, drainage, irrigation and planting. But most of all, he was remarkably generous with our clients, and he became genuine friends with so many of them. It was standard of Francisco to go the extra mile for clients at no cost, and often to work late into the evening, in all weather conditions, to complete a project in time for a client’s party or to make sure their irrigation system was safely winterized before a storm.  

Francisco also did so much great work for Denver Urban Gardens (DUG). For over the nearly two decades that we worked with him at DUG, he and his crew helped to install essential infrastructure at a countless number of new and existing DUG gardens. He bent over backwards at every turn to help DUG out when one of our gardens was in need of his skills and support. A significant portion of his time over the years was donated to DUG’s mission to create community gardens where neighbors grow healthy food together, with much of his generosity going to help gardens in low-income neighborhoods for immigrant and refugee gardeners. 

With every new garden project, we would bring Francisco in to clear and grade the site, trim trees, build terrace walls, stairs and ramps if needed, and install irrigation systems and perimeter fence. His work created the foundation of each garden and set them all up for long-term success. He and his crew have been a loyal and essential partner in the successes of Denver Urban Gardens and our network of over 185 gardens would not be what it is today without Francisco. He leaves a legacy of meaningful work and community-loved places throughout the city of Denver.

Francisco was most joyful however when he would talk about his family. He loved his wife with his soul and his oasis was with her in Mexico. When he spoke of his children he would burst with pride and hope for their futures. He cared deeply about his siblings, and revered his mother and father. He lived his life for his family. 

He was such a good, kind and generous man, and the truest of friends. Without fail, he always greeted me on the phone, or in a text, or in person with – “good morning my friend, how are you today?” He always had time for me and for everyone that crossed his path, and he was filled with the joy of life. His tragic and untimely death has saddened so many and has broken my heart. On the day he was lost, the world became less kind and less generous, and so its now up to each of us to take a part of who Francisco was and do something extra to care for a loved one, or do something unexpected to help someone without expecting anything in return. And finally, if we can all simply remember to greet the people in our lives with the same grace with which Francisco greeted us, his legacy of kindness will live on within each of us.

I’m just now coming to terms with the fact that my life from here forward will never be the same because it won’t include Francisco. I can only hope that he knew how much I loved him and how blessed I felt to call him my friend.    

with my family’s deepest sympathies,


A la familia de Francisco Cordero:

De su viejo amigo y colega de trabajo, Michael Buchenau

Francisco era uno de mis mejores amigos y compañeros de trabajo más cercanos. Nos presentaron a través de nuestro trabajo de jardinería hace más de 20 años, y nos convertimos en grandes amigos durante ese largo período de tiempo. Aprovechamos cada oportunidad juntos para hablar sobre nuestras familias y nuestros hijos, nuestros deportes y equipos favoritos, e incluso sobre política y asuntos mundiales. Pasamos tiempo personal en los juegos de los Rockies y los Broncos, y mi esposa Krista y yo a menudo invitamos a Francisco a tomar una cerveza o una cena improvisada después del trabajo y, por supuesto, él venía cada vez con regalos de nueces caseras, salsa, carnitas, tamales o chilis, y siempre una botella de tequila de regalo. Y recuerdo en esta época del año una de nuestras celebraciones familiares de Acción de Gracias más memorables que pasamos con Francisco en nuestra mesa. Amaba a nuestros hijos y ellos lo amaban a él.

Él y yo compartíamos muchas de las mismas opiniones y pasiones, así como el valor del trabajo duro y honesto y la satisfacción de un trabajo bien hecho. En los más de 20 años que trabajamos juntos, él y yo nunca intercambiamos una sola palabra dura o cruel entre nosotros. Tenía un profundo respeto por Francisco y sabía que haría cualquier cosa por mí. Nuestro trabajo nos mantuvo unidos y siempre imaginé que un día él y yo seríamos dos viejos en un porche recordando todos nuestros grandes proyectos y compartiendo las alegrías de nuestras vidas juntos. Incluso esperaba que algún día mi esposa y yo pudiéramos visitarlo en su casa en México y compartir la alegría que sentía tan profundamente allí. Pero la vida no suele seguir el camino de nuestros sueños, y lamentablemente ese día en el porche nunca llegará para Francisco y para mí. Sin embargo, me quedo con los recuerdos del tiempo de calidad que pasamos juntos, a menudo en el sitio de trabajo al final del día, donde nos quedábamos y hablábamos sobre los placeres simples que la vida tenía para ofrecer.

Francisco era único en su clase. Era el contratista más positivo, optimista y “capaz de hacer” cualquier cosa. Hizo todo lo que pudo para construir lo que yo diseñé, y trabajó conmigo para buscar mejoras en mis planos durante la fase de construcción de cada proyecto. Siempre estaba dispuesto a ir más allá de lo necesario y volver a hacer el trabajo hasta que yo estuviera satisfecho. En la mente de Francisco, cada mañana amanecía un nuevo día para hacer un gran trabajo. Era un técnico experto y un artesano en lo que respecta a mampostería, clasificación, drenaje, riego y siembra. Pero sobre todo, fue muy generoso con nuestros clientes y se hizo amigo de muchos de ellos. Era usual para Francisco hacer un esfuerzo adicional para los clientes sin costo y, a menudo, trabajar hasta altas horas de la noche, lloviera, tronara o nevara, para completar un proyecto a tiempo para la fiesta de un cliente o para asegurarse de que su sistema de riego estuviera preparado para el invierno de manera segura antes de una tormenta.

Francisco también hizo un gran trabajo para Denver Urban Gardens (DUG). Durante las casi dos décadas que trabajamos con él en DUG, él y su equipo ayudaron a instalar la infraestructura esencial en múltiplos jardines DUG nuevos y existentes. Él hizo todo lo posible para ayudar a DUG cuando uno de nuestros jardines necesitaba sus habilidades y apoyo. Una parte significativa de su tiempo a lo largo de los años fue donado a la misión de DUG de crear jardines comunitarios donde los vecinos pudieran cultivar alimentos saludables juntos, y gran parte de su generosidad fue destinada a ayudar a los jardineros en vecindarios de bajos ingresos para jardineros inmigrantes y refugiados.

Con cada nuevo proyecto de jardín, traíamos a Francisco para limpiar y nivelar el sitio, podar árboles, construir paredes de terrazas, escaleras y rampas si era necesario, e instalar sistemas de riego y cerca perimetral. Su trabajo creó la base de cada jardín y los preparó para el éxito a largo plazo. Él y su equipo han sido socios leales y esenciales en el éxito de Denver Urban Gardens, y nuestra red de más de 185 jardines no sería lo que es hoy sin Francisco. Deja un legado de trabajo significativo y lugares amados por la comunidad en toda la ciudad de Denver.

A Francisco se le iluminaba la cara cuando hablaba de su familia. Amaba a su esposa con el alma y su oasis estaba con ella en México. Cuando hablaba de sus hijos, estallaba de orgullo y esperanza por su futuro. Se preocupaba profundamente por sus hermanos y reverenciaba a su madre y a su padre.Vivía su vida por su familia.

Era un hombre tan bueno, amable y generoso, y el más fiel de los amigos. Sin falta, siempre me saludaba por teléfono, o en un mensaje de texto, o en persona con “buenos días amigo mío, ¿cómo estás hoy?” Siempre tenía tiempo para mí y para todos los que se cruzaban en su camino, y estaba lleno de alegría por la vida. Su trágica y prematura muerte ha entristecido a muchos y me ha roto el corazón. El día que falleció, el mundo se volvió menos amable y menos generoso, por lo que ahora depende de cada uno de nosotros tomar parte de quién era Francisco y hacer algo extra para cuidar a un ser querido, o hacer algo inesperado para ayudar a alguien sin esperar nada a cambio. Y finalmente, si todos podemos simplemente recordar saludar a las personas en nuestras vidas con la misma gracia con la que Francisco nos saludó, su legado de bondad vivirá dentro de cada uno de nosotros.

Hasta ahora estoy aceptando el hecho de que mi vida de ahora en adelante nunca será la misma porque no incluirá a Francisco. Solo puedo esperar que él supiera cuánto lo quería y cuán bendecido me sentí al llamarlo mi amigo.

Con el más sentido pésame de mi familia,


Below are just a few thoughts about Francisco from clients, friends, and staff members of Denver Urban Gardens (DUG):

From long-time DUG staff member Judy Elliott:

I am honored to have known Francisco throughout all of these years and also relieved that his family had that last moment with him. All of this is such a call to me to constantly, daily, activate our love for all we hold dear; putting aside arguments, perceived wrongs, letting family know how important they are in every way. Francisco was so much part of the soul of DUG, uncomplaining, just ‘showing up’, doing the best he could in every situation. I remember personally how he & his family helped me with a construction clean-up at my home, refusing to accept due payment because I was part of the DUG family. I think of him in light and know that he remains strong in his earth spirit. We are so very honored to have learned from him.

From landscape architect and former DUG co-director David Rieseck:

I largely remember being “rescued” by Francisco and his crew multiple times when our team at DUG was facing a deadline to finish a garden at a school. With each project, he came and finished the work that we started in what seemed to have been moments. I recall Francisco building many of our residential projects from what would be considered concept drawings. He would accept our ideas, try and understand our instructions, and then do the right thing—-time after time. We were so blessed to be able to turn to him for his skills, resilience and good-nature. He was just a flat-out nice guy with a wonderful disposition; a gift.

From long-time DUG staff member Cheryl Brubaker:

I truly loved that guy — one of a kind and such a special soul. So very hard to accept that we don’t have him anymore.

From DUG staff member Nessa Mogharreban:

I’ve had the honor and pleasure of knowing Francisco for the past 6 years. I remember first meeting him, having been told that I’d be working closely with him to build our network of gardens, and had no idea what to expect. From the beginning, he treated me with respect and made me feel comfortable with his goofiness and laughter. He took every opportunity to teach me things whenever I asked questions, as stupid as they may have been. He was always ready to help and I knew that every time I called him, he would answer the phone with the happiest of hellos. I’ve learned so much from Francisco and the thing I’ll take with me the most is his honest and genuine friendship. He has left his mark on the city of Denver and I am so appreciative and honored to call him my friend and colleague. I will miss him greatly and will think of him anytime I need a smile.

From DUG staff member Lara Fahnestock:

I want to let you know how sorry I am that you are grieving right now. Francisco meant so much to me and the whole DUG team. I can see him now, walking slowly into the office, faded black jeans, a denim shirt, cowboy boots and a smile. He would always take time to say hello and ask how I was. After his trips to Mexico, he always brought candied pecans to share- such a treat! He was a rare combination of hard working and kind. He will be deeply missed.

From Dr. Fred Masoudi:

I knew Francisco for many years since he worked on the first of a number of projects on my back yards. It was clear from the start that he was exceptional—as a craftsman who could transform projects on paper to beautiful, peaceful places and as a person who could form meaningful relationships. More recently, I had the good fortune of spending time with him during my most recent yard project because I have spent more time working at home because of the pandemic. I frequently saw him when he came to review the work of his crew and get his hands dirty perfecting things. There was a routine around his visits—he would drive up in his truck and lumber out in his straw hat, jeans and well-worn boots, smiling from behind his sunglasses. After he had a chance to look around, I would go outside to say hello. He’d always offer me a fist bump with the calloused knuckles that reflected his constant involvement in the hand work of his projects. I would practice my Spanish with him and he would patiently provide me with pointers and grin when I would misuse a word or say something awkwardly. We would also talk about life—he told me how much he was looking forward to going to see his family in Mexico and spending time with the pecan orchard. While I met him as a contractor, I was grateful to know him as a friend. When I spend time in my back yard in the years to come, I will think about Francisco—it will be a lasting monument to a kind, honest, thoughtful, and hard-working man whom I was lucky to know.  

From the Lewandowski family:

The shock is too much. I last saw him on Oct 21st, and he was working too hard as usual.  He rescued us from the extreme cold and shut off our sprinklers before they froze.  I’ve known him since 2004 and have loved working with him over the many years. He was always generous and kind, and is irreplaceable.

From the Burton family:

What a kind man!

From the Duke family:

Such a good man! My heart breaks when I see his picture and realize that he won’t be here any longer to help us realize our garden dreams. No one could do it like he did.

From the Booth family: 

Francisco was a kind and hardworking family man, and a good spirit.

From the Vandervelde family:

So sad to hear about his passing, he was our friend.

From the Galleher family:

How very sad to hear this tragic news about our dear friend. Francisco was truly one of the kindest people we have known.

From the Noriega family:

I hope his family knows how adored he was.

From the Rhodes family:

He was such a sweet person. I always really liked talking to him. We were so sad to hear about his passing.

From the Katz family:

He was such a good man!

From the Wallace family:

The three of us are stunned and deeply sad. He was so warm and gentle and gracious. I always took a cue from him to slow down and connect, before doing anything else. He always talked to Carmen our daughter about her height, and to Mark about the Rockies, and always with a smile. We are so grateful to have known him. His spirit and presence lives on in our beautiful yard, and in our hearts.

From Keith Greene:

We became good friends and he was a pallbearer at Jody’s burial. He was still helping me out, and I will really miss him. So hard to believe he is gone.

From the Rodgers family:

He was such a very kind man. Sending love and prayers for peace and comfort.

From architect and client Aaron Hodgin:

Just this morning I was shoveling the snow in our front and carefully putting a little extra snow on each of the grasses and bushes to give them a little extra water, and enjoying the sweetness of our garden.  I am very thankful for the care and craft provided by Francisco and his team. My daughter Solenne and her neighbor friend Grace placed some lights in the crimson sentry maple in our side yard, and had it on after learning about Francisco’s passing.  I didn’t notice it until the light glowed the other evening, it was lovely between the two houses and illuminating the garden sitting space that Francisco built for us. I am thankful for my experiences with Francisco and getting to know him a little more each time we connected or worked together and learning little bits of his family, too. This has been a difficult year for so many in the world, but incredibly tragic when it affects our friends and loved ones. Sending heart-filled well wishes to Francisco for the opportunities that our lives shared paths together and tremendous thoughts and prayers for his family.

A continuación algunas notas para Francisco de clientes, amigos y miembros del personal de Denver Urban Gardens (DUG):

De Judy Elliot miembro del personal de DUG de hace muchos años:

Me siento honrada de haber conocido a Francisco durante todos estos años y también aliviada de que su familia haya tenido ese último momento con él. Todo esto es un llamado para mí a activar constantemente, todos los días, nuestro amor por todo lo que amamos; dejando de lado las discusiones, los errores percibidos, dejando que la familia sepa lo importantes que son en todos los sentidos. Francisco era una gran parte del alma de DUG, sin quejarse, simplemente “apareciendo”, haciendo lo mejor que podía en cada situación. Recuerdo personalmente cómo él y su familia me ayudaron con la limpieza de la construcción en mi casa, negándose a aceptar el pago debido porque yo era parte de la familia DUG. Pienso en él como una luz y sé que permanece fuerte en su espíritu terrenal. Estamos muy honrados de haber aprendido de él.

Del arquitecto paisajista y ex codirector de DUG, David Rieseck:

Recuerdo en gran medida haber sido “rescatado” por Francisco y su equipo varias veces cuando nuestro equipo en DUG se enfrentaba a una fecha límite para terminar un jardín en una escuela. Con cada proyecto, venía y terminaba el trabajo que comenzamos en un santi amen!  Recuerdo que Francisco construyó muchos de nuestros proyectos residenciales a partir de lo que se considerarían dibujos conceptuales. Aceptaba nuestras ideas, intentaba comprender nuestras instrucciones y luego hacía lo correcto, una y otra vez. Tuvimos la suerte de poder acudir a él por sus habilidades, resistencia y bondad. Él era simplemente un buen tipo con una disposición maravillosa; un regalo.

De Cheryl Brubaker, miembro del personal de DUG de hace muchos años: 

Yo realmente quería y apreciaba mucho a Francisco — único en su clase y un alma tan especial. Es muy difícil de aceptar que ya no lo tenemos con nosotros. 

De Nessa Mogharreban, personal de DUG:

He tenido el honor y el placer de conocer a Francisco durante los últimos 6 años. Recuerdo la primera vez que lo conocí, cuando me dijeron que trabajaría junto con él para construir nuestra red de jardines, y no tenía idea de qué esperar. Desde el principio, me trató con respeto y me hizo sentir cómoda con sus tonterías y risas. Aprovechaba cada oportunidad para enseñarme cosas cada vez que le hacía preguntas, por estúpidas que fueran. Siempre estaba dispuesto a ayudar y sabía que cada vez que lo llamara, él contestaría el teléfono con el más feliz de los saludos. He aprendido mucho de Francisco y lo que más me llevo es su amistad honesta y genuina. Ha dejado su huella en la ciudad de Denver y estoy muy agradecida y honrada de llamarlo mi amigo y colega. Lo extrañaré mucho y pensaré en él cada vez que necesite una sonrisa.

De Lara Fahnestock, personal de DUG:

Quiero hacerle saber cuánto lamento que estén sufriendo en este momento. Francisco significó mucho para mí y para todo el equipo de DUG. Puedo verlo ahora, caminando lentamente hacia la oficina, jeans negros descoloridos, una camisa, botas de vaquero y una sonrisa. Siempre se tomaba el tiempo para saludar y preguntarme cómo estaba. Después de sus viajes a México, siempre traía nueces confitadas para compartir, ¡qué delicia! Era una rara combinación de un gran trabajador y un ser amable. Yo y el equipo de DUG lo extrañarémos profundamente.

Del Dr. Fred Masoudi:

Conocí a Francisco durante muchos años desde que trabajó en el primero de varios proyectos en mi patio trasero. Desde el principio quedó claro que era excepcional, como un artesano que podía transformar proyectos en papel en lugares hermosos y pacíficos y como una persona que podía formar relaciones significativas. Más recientemente, tuve la suerte de pasar tiempo con él durante mi proyecto de jardín más reciente porque he pasado más tiempo trabajando en casa debido a la pandemia. Lo veía con frecuencia cuando venía a revisar el trabajo de su equipo y ensuciarse las manos perfeccionando cosas. Había una rutina en torno a sus visitas: llegaba en su camioneta y salía pesadamente con su sombrero de paja, jeans y botas gastadas, sonriendo desde detrás de sus lentes de sol. Después de que tuviera la oportunidad de mirar alrededor, salía a saludar. Siempre me ofrecía un puñetazo con los nudillos callosos que reflejaban su constante participación en el trabajo manual de sus proyectos. Practicaba mi español con él y él pacientemente me daba consejos y me sonreía cuando usaba mal una palabra o decía algo torpe. También hablábamos de la vida; me dijo que estaba muy ansioso y emocionado por ir a ver a su familia en México y pasar tiempo con el huerto de nueces. Aunque lo conocí como contratista, estaba agradecido de conocerlo como amigo. Cuando pase tiempo en mi patio trasero en los próximos años, pensaré en Francisco: será un monumento duradero a un hombre amable, honesto, reflexivo y trabajador a quien tuve la suerte de conocer.

De la familia Lewandowski:

Estamos muy sorprendidos por su partida. La última vez que lo vi fue el 21 de Octubre. y él estaba trabajando duro, como de costumbre. Nos rescató del frío extremo y cerró los rociadores antes de que se congelaran. Lo conozco desde 2004 y me ha encantado trabajar con él durante estos años. Siempre fue generoso y amable, y es insustituible.

De la familia Burton:

¡Qué hombre tan amable!

De la familia Duke:

¡Qué buen hombre! Mi corazón se rompe cuando veo su foto y me doy cuenta de que ya no estará aquí para ayudarnos a hacer realidad nuestros sueños de jardín. Nadie podía hacerlo como él.

De la familia Booth: 

Francisco era un hombre de familia, amable, trabajador y de buen espíritu.

De la familia Vandervelde:

Nos entristece saber de su fallecimiento, él era nuestro amigo. 

De la familia Galleher:

Qué tristeza escuchar esta trágica noticia sobre nuestro querido amigo. Francisco fue verdaderamente una de las personas más amables que hemos conocido.

De la familia Noriega:

Espero que su familia sepa lo amado que era. 

De la familia Rhodes:

Era una persona tan dulce. Siempre me gustó mucho hablar con él. Nos entristeció mucho escuchar sobre su fallecimiento.

De la familia Katz:

¡Francisco era un gran hombre!

De la familia Wallace:

Los tres estamos atónitos y profundamente tristes. Francisco era tan cálido, gentil y amable. Siempre seguía una señal de él para bajar la velocidad y conectar, antes de hacer cualquier otra cosa. Siempre hablaba con nuestra hija Carmen sobre su altura, y con Mark sobre los Rockies, y siempre con una sonrisa. Estamos muy agradecidos de haberlo conocido. Su espíritu y su presencia siguen vivos en nuestro hermoso jardín y en nuestros corazones.

De Keith Greene:

Nos hicimos buenos amigos y él fue el cargador del féretro en el entierro de Jody. Todavía me estaba ayudando y realmente lo extrañaré. Es tan difícil de creer que se ha ido.

De la familia Rodgers:

El era una persona tan amable. Enviando amor y oraciones por su paz y consuelo. 

Del arquitecto y cliente Aaron Hodgin:

Esta misma mañana estaba limpiando la nieve de nuestro frente y poniendo con cuidado un poco más de nieve en cada una de las hierbas y arbustos para darles un poco de agua adicional y disfrutar de la dulzura de nuestro jardín. Estoy muy agradecido por el cuidado y la artesanía brindados por Francisco y su equipo. Mi hija Solenne y su amiga vecina Grace colocaron algunas luces en el árbol  de nuestro jardín lateral y las encendieron después de enterarse del fallecimiento de Francisco. No me di cuenta hasta que la luz brilló la otra noche, era encantador entre las dos casas e iluminando el espacio para sentarse en el jardín que Francisco construyó para nosotros. Estoy agradecida por mis experiencias con Francisco y por conocerlo un poco más cada vez que nos conectabamos o trabajábamos juntos. También aprendimos pequeños aspectos de su familia. Este ha sido un año difícil para muchos en el mundo, pero increíblemente trágico cuando afecta a nuestros amigos y seres queridos. Enviando buenos deseos llenos de corazón a Francisco por las oportunidades que nuestras vidas compartieron juntos y tremendos pensamientos y oraciones para su familia.

2020 Outstanding Garden Leader Awards

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Each year, DUG recognizes Garden Leaders who have gone above-and-beyond as volunteers, stewards, organizers, and leaders in their community. We’re excited to share more about 2020’s outstanding Garden Leaders in the words of their community members themselves!

Bruce Loftis, Gables Community Garden

Bruce is always (always!) willing to help anyone and everyone with anything and everything that comes up.  He’ll help other gardeners prepare their plots, water when they’re on vacations, harvest, and clean up at the end of the season.  He’ll help with any projects that are happening with the students in the garden– and this year when we can’t do things in person with the students, he is always there to help plant, tend, and care for the school plots when students can’t be there with us. Bruce is always the first to volunteer when a task needs to be done, whether watering new trees or perennials, contacting gardeners, or sharing knowledge with other schools or groups interested in starting gardens of their own.  He is open to new ideas, he manages conflict well, he persists through difficult situations, and he cares about other people.  Best of all, Bruce always has a smile on his face and a pleasant greeting for everyone he meets.  We are so lucky to have Bruce as our Garden Leader and fellow gardener. 

Michael Lyster, Academia Sandoval Community Garden

Michael is a great leader who keeps us updated on DUG events and helps gather materials and resources for the garden.  He is a good gardener willing to share his ideas and experience.

His gardeners say: 

  • I love that he calls us all “farmers.”
  • I love that his/our response to the El Oasis sale was to make more space in our garden.
  • I love the eclectic and fun conversations we all have remotely now / in person before about gardening and its relation to all things important. 

Elaine Davis, Fletcher Community Garden

Elaine is a Master Community Gardener who  jumped into leading the Fletcher garden after the last leader left. She leads equitably and inclusively and has made a point of honoring the garden’s history and traditions.

Pallas Quist, Samuels Community Garden and DCIS Baker Community Garden:

Pallas has been a Garden Leader at Samuels since it was established in 2012. This year when her children started school at DCIS Baker, Pallas noticed the garden was underused and has spent the last few months giving the garden a facelift and getting it ready for students to plant in the spring!

Stephanie Sisnroy, Little Sprouts Community Garden:

We would like to give a shout out to Stephanie from the Little Elementary DUG. We have known Stephanie and her family for several years now. She is super organized and lets people contribute however they can. She has gotten people to share their expertise and has made the students at the school the main focus of learning. We have had several fall farmers markets and she has involved many community organizations to purchase plants and supplies from. Now with covid…we have had to adhere to some rules to continue to make the garden as Stephanie would say…our happy place. Her contributions have been endless and it is greatly appreciated. We appreciate being a part of this garden.

Lyric McKnight, KCAA Community Garden:

Lyric has been a part of the KCAA garden leadership since it was established in 2015. She is a DUG Master Community Gardener who shares her commitment to healthy living with her gardeners. This year when more people were facing food insecurity, Lyric responded by helping plant all the available garden plots for donation.

Gardening for Purpose

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Every year, more than 600,000 pounds of food are grown in DUG gardens, with around 10% (or 60,000) pounds donated to local food banks and community organizations. For the last 23 years, DUG has also distributed tens of thousands of free and low-cost seeds and seedlings every spring to metro Denver residents to be able to grow their own food through our Grow a Garden program.

Learn more about how DUG provides the resources and education to help metro Denver residents grow healthy food for themselves and their neighbors below.

DUG + Slow Food Denver partner for virtual cooking classes

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DUG is cooking up virtual fun with Slow Food Denver!

This fall, we have been piloting new online cooking classes in partnership with Slow Food Denver as part of our Healthy Food for Denver Kid’s grant.

For four weeks, we supplied 139 3rd and 4th grade students at Fairview Elementary, Swansea Elementary, and Maxwell Elementary with the ingredients and tools needed to cook fresh, made-from-scratch meals at home using produce sourced from local farms. Each child participating in the program received produce for the week to feed a family of 6.

In partnership with Slow Food Denver, we supported teachers as they delivered virtual cooking instructions (in both English and Spanish!) for how to prepare four different meals, including seasonal vegetable soup, root veggie tacos, braised greens with pasta, and pupusas with curtido sauce!

The classes were a hit and we’re currently undergoing project evaluation as we prepare for the next round of classes!

Be sure to also check out our Faces of DUG highlight of La’Tara, a 3rd grade teacher at Swansea Elementary who participated in the program!

Our Virtual Cooking Classes by the Number

The Importance of Urban Green Spaces

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Studies continue to show what we at DUG have long known to be true – that green spaces are vital to urban areas for greater human health and a biodiverse environment.

Yet green space in Denver is disappearing faster than in most other cities, with pavement increasing from 19 percent of the city in 1974 to 48 percent in 2018.

If trends continue, by 2040 almost 69 percent of the city is expected to be paved or covered. Only New York and a few mega cities exceed that level of what planners call “imperviousness.”

Denver Urban Gardens has been preserving and maintaining land in metro Denver for 35 years, and we currently steward over 31 acres across six counties. Our community and school-based gardens are not only places where people can get outside for fresh air and exercise, but also grow fresh, healthy food for themselves and their communities and find genuine connection with their neighbors.


We’re proud to be the largest urban network of community gardens in the nation.

For the last 35 years, we’ve been working towards our vision to create a vibrant, healthy Denver Metro Area where everyone has access to growing space and the resources needed to grow their own food.

With the rise in obesity, depression, carbon levels in the atmosphere, and cultural division, it’s clear gardens play an important role in supporting conscious movement and healthy eating, mental and emotional wellness, carbon sequestering and soil building, and bringing together people in community.

Welcome Linda Appel Lipsius, our new Interim Executive Director

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As summer has transitioned into fall, DUG has also been undergoing deep changes. While 2020 has brought challenges to all of us, DUG’s resiliency has been tested in the face of economic uncertainty and organizational shifts. However, we remain grounded and inspired by our amazing community in your care of one other throughout this pandemic.

In late September 2020, Dr. Violeta García resigned from her role as Executive Director of Denver Urban Gardens after leading the organization for the past 10 months. We are grateful for her energy and service to DUG and wish her the very best in her next venture.

Today, we also delighted to announce that Linda Appel Lipsius has stepped up to serve as DUG’s Interim Executive Director. Linda joined the board of directors earlier this year and brings a wealth of entrepreneurial experience, as well as a passion for gardening, sustainability, and permaculture, to the team. We are grateful to have her guidance and dedicated leadership as we navigate these challenging times.

Meet Linda and learn more about where DUG is headed into 2021 and beyond!

Check out our new film, “The Portal”

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Pioneering hemp CBD brand, Charlotte’s Web Inc., has recently launched its inaugural film festival, “Our Stories,” which features four poignant stories of healing within the communities of their nonprofit partner organizations, including DUG.

We are thrilled to share their short film,“The Portal,” with you, where you’ll meet two DUG Garden Leaders, David Kissler and Linda Pakiser, as they share about their journeys to find physical and emotional healing through gardening in community.

Facts about the El Oasis Land Sale

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Denver Urban Gardens At a Glance

Denver Urban Gardens (DUG) was founded in 1985 on the belief that together, we can build connection, knowledge, and resiliency by growing food. Over the last thirty-five years, we have grown to include more than 180 community gardens spanning six counties, and we’ve further expanded our impact by offering horticultural and leadership training, youth education, and food access programs that provide free and low-cost access to seeds, seedlings and education around growing food.

What is happening?

A tough decision had to be made due to our current financial situation, the state of philanthropy, and the uncertainties related to the pandemic. DUG is under contract to sell about two-thirds of the land on which the El Oasis Community Garden is located. Selling a portion of one garden will allow DUG to continue our mission and serve our community of 17,500 gardeners in more than 180 gardens throughout metro Denver.

**2021 Update: DUG is requesting a variance from the City of Denver for the property on which the El Oasis Community Garden sits. If granted, the variance allows for the parcel split that will enable us to sell only part of the land while keeping part of the land as a community garden in perpetuity. Maintaining a garden in this part of the city is important to DUG, the El Oasis gardeners and the community at large.

After the sale, the remaining one-third of the land will be redesigned as the new El Oasis Community Garden. We anticipate being able to accommodate most of the El Oasis gardeners in the new garden and will support the transition of any gardeners who desire to move to another nearby garden. 

We plan to work closely with the El Oasis community as we redesign the new garden that meets the gardeners’ needs. We anticipate the new garden will have more than 30 garden plots and retain many of the features of the current garden, including the pergola and storage shed. 

In addition to El Oasis Community Garden, DUG owns six other properties. We have no plans to sell any of those tracts of land.

Why are you selling a portion of a garden? 

This decision was not made quickly or lightly; many alternatives were explored by DUG staff and board members. However, this land sale is part of a larger strategy for moving DUG forward for the greater good. 

Fundraising challenges associated with the pandemic have exacerbated financial challenges that were already in existence, specifically DUG’s reliance on a line of credit over the last several years. For example, From 2014 through 2018, DUG worked to meet communities’ requests and built 59 new gardens. Unfortunately, during the same time period, approximately $300,000 to $400,00 in annual funding that we had received for over a decade dried up, and a national grant of nearly $100,000 that had been received annually ceased to be available, as well. 

How will you prevent this from happening again in the future?

Moving forward, we are building a more diverse fundraising strategy, reworking how we fund and maintain our gardens, and engaging the strength of our community to ensure we can continue providing education and land access for everyone.

What happens if the sale doesn’t happen? 

Unfortunately, if this sale does not close as planned, DUG will cease to exist as it does today. The money from the sale allows us to pay off the line of credit, design and build the new El Oasis Community Garden, and establish the necessary reserves to ensure the organization’s sustainability moving forward. 

It is critical to make this transition a reality in order to continue to serve our entire community of 17,500 gardeners throughout metro Denver, many of whom rely on the land, seeds/seedlings and education DUG provides to feed their families and their communities. You can learn more about our community impact here.

How can I help? 

You can help DUG continue to support all of our gardeners by sharing facts about this situation. 

  • Share this webpage with other interested community members, friends and family members who may not have heard the complete story. 
  • Donate to DUG .While the sale of a portion of El Oasis garden does set DUG up for a sustainable future, it does not replace our need to raise funds to meet our annual budget this year and in the years to come. We need your financial support now more than ever.

Black Lives Matter.

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Words matter– but they are not enough. 

Black Lives Matter.

We recognize the power of this statement and why we are saying it loud and clear–because we know Black lives are valuable, precious, and inherently worthy. We are speaking out to acknowledge the pain that our Black community members have been experiencing for generations, as well as listening to their lived experiences, and recognizing the existence of racist structures, policies, and actions responsible for the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Abrey, Elijah McClain and so many more over the past 400 years. 

Dismantling Systems of Oppression 

We can and will do better. DUG is committed to showing up, doing the work, and being held accountable for actively challenging policies that perpetuate inequities for our Black communities. 

Photo courtesy of Nikki A. Rae Photography.

This looks like: 

  • Developing internal policies and systems to ensure that our team, our volunteer leaders, and our board of directors represent the communities we serve.
  • Creating and implementing a framework for organizational transformation centering justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.
  • Ensuring our entire team is trained in anti-racist work. This includes mandatory trainings for staff, volunteers, board members to understand how racial inequalities have seeped into our everyday actions and to understand how we continue to perpetuate racist ideas and policies with our actions or our inactions.
  • Supporting actions and policies focused on food sovereignty at both the local and state levels by bringing equity to the forefront and ensuring our Black and Brown communities are represented.
  • Putting community voices at the forefront as we move forward with strategic planning. In 2020 we engaged in a listening tour throughout the Denver metro area. We surveyed our community and held 45 focus groups to better understand  how we can serve and support our communities in all that we do.

While these are a few examples of how we plan to get started, we also recognize our gaps and where we will continue to challenge ourselves for personal and organizational growth. Our commitment to our Black community is to listen, to take feedback, to embrace and amplify Black and Brown voices, and to take bold action with a humble heart.  

As we move forward as educated allies, unwavering advocates, and courageous leaders for our community in the name of love, we also commit to acknowledging critical feedback and doing better when we get it wrong.

Let’s get to work.