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Letter from the Director

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Fall/Winter letter from DUG Executive Director Michael Buchenau

As another growing season comes to a close, much of our attention at DUG has turned once again to supporting a significant number of new garden projects emerging throughout the city. As we meet on each new project with community members, various agency and city officials, the support we’ve received has been extremely encouraging. It seems that the idea of community gardens throughout our city is officially coming of age.

It hasn’t hurt that the research findings from the Colorado School of Public Health continue to reveal the potential for community gardens to play an important role in a broad approach to improved health in our urban communities. Community gardens are everyday landscapes that address daily needs for healthy food while promoting substantive connections between people and their living environment. They are also a tangible action that communities can take and maintain on their own, and as such have gotten the attention of a broader audience, especially of late.

In fact, we’ve been asked recently by numerous urban planners, health officials and policymakers to outline the tangible actions they should consider as they work to establish a network of community gardens in their jurisdictions. As actions relate in particular to land planning, we’ve suggested the following:  

– foremost, establish that a need and desire for a community garden exists from within the community, including a commitment from interested parties to participate throughout the process of establishing, using and maintaining the garden;

– ensure that planning processes include a public outreach component that is inclusive and connects with potential participants that might otherwise be overlooked;

– ensure that community gardens are part of land planning processes up front, so that they don’t end up an afterthought that then has to be retrofit into urban development;

– ensure that community gardens are considered a primary and permanent open space option as part of all master planning efforts, on par with valued elements such as playgrounds, bike trails and community plazas;

– work to establish zoning codes which protect community gardens, while liberally allowing them in appropriate zone codes and identifying them as a use-by-right;

– rather than private property, consider properties for community gardens where they become part of the permanent programming of a site, such as parks and open spaces, school grounds, institutions, and affordable housing developments; 

– ensure that community gardens are available and accessible to all communities, especially in food desserts and in low-income communities with marginalized and isolated populations;

– promote the establishment of community gardens and garden-to-cafeteria programs at schools for the primary purposes of teaching children hands-on lessons in healthy nutrition, science, environmental stewardship and social studies; and  

– encourage programming that connects community gardens to other entities in local food systems including food banks and shelters, farmer’s markets, and local chef networks.

Collectively, these steps can go a long way in improving community health, and we are thrilled to be a part of this movement toward healthy, self-sustaining communities. We are grateful for the tremendous support we’ve received these past 25 years, and as we move forward, we hope that you will continue to join us in growing community- one urban garden at a time.

Warm Regards, 

Michael Buchenau
Executive Director
Denver Urban Gardens 

This letter was originally published in the Fall/Winter 2010 Edition of The Underground News.

Let’s Move–and Garden!

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Posted by Emily Frost, Programs and Communications Intern.

This past weekend, the National League of Cities hosted the “Congress of Cities” at the Denver Convention Center. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack spoke at the event, presenting praise and a challenge to the city officials in attendance as he represented the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign to combat childhood obesity.

Among other things, Vilsack noted the importance of community gardens in creating healthy communitiesThese girls get moving as they bicycle around the Fairview Harvest Festival. Community gardens are great spaces for both nutrition and exercise. and setting a foundation for success of the campaign. He encouraged officials in attendance to practice coalition building and map out food deserts in their cities, but also to take note of where community gardens were having successes.

According to the article in Food Safety News, Vilsack also announced that

USDA offices around the county are now providing ground for 700 gardens that this growing season produced 90,000 pounds of fresh produce. Most went to local food banks.

Here in Denver, DUG’s extensive community of gardeners donate a hefty portion of produce each year to our area food banks, including non-profits like Project Angel Heart, which exists to ensure that the metro area’s very ill receive free, consistent and appropriately nutritious meals. 

Another hot topic during the USDA Secretary’s speech was the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 that recently passed in Congress. This act, coupled with cities committing to make nutritional food available throughout the school districts, has the potential to really make an impact on what Vilsack sees as a matter of national security. 

 

Blocked in, blocked out in Sun Valley

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Post writer Tina Griego spent two months in Denver’s Sun Valley neighborhood, and is chronicling her time there in a three part series. Part one is up now. 

“It is a community,” he says. “It ain’t like a neighborhood you drive through and see all the pretty houses and trees. It’s like you drive through and you see the people here and you speed up.” He laughs. “What’s crazy is we have so many people coming through and no one knows Sun Valley.”

Click here to read Part One: Blocked in, blocked out at The Denver Post. 

There are two Denver Urban Gardens community gardens in Sun Valley. At Fairview Elementary, students, teachers, parents, neighbors, DUG staff, and Connecting Generations mentors work together in the Fairview Community Garden, and the Fairview Youth Farmers Market to create a beautiful neighborhood gathering space that is also a source of fresh, healthy produce. You can learn more about DUG’s School Garden and Nutrition Education programs here

Jacob, a student, tends the Fairview Elementary Youth Farmers Market.

Spotted in Park Hill

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On our way to visit the Greater Park Hill Community Center in preparation for the 2011 Free Seeds and Transplants Program, we saw these excellent veggie themed bike racks outside The Bike Depot.

Give where you live on Colorado Gives Day!

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On Wednesday, December 8th, you can increase the impact of your donation by giving to Denver Urban Gardens through GivingFirst.org.

Colorado Gives Day is a new initiative to increase philanthropy in Colorado through online giving. Presented by Community First Foundation and FirstBank, Colorado Gives Day will take place during a 24 hour period starting at 12 a.m. on Wednesday, December 8, 2010. Donations will be accepted through the website GivingFirst.org, with a goal of raising $1 million in one day for Colorado nonprofits.

The Incentive Fund increases the value of every dollar donated!

How it works:

The Colorado Gives Day Incentive Fund is a pool of dollars created to leverage donations made to nonprofits through GivingFirst.org on Colorado Gives Day. FirstBank contributed $250,000 as a lead gift to the fund, and additional dollars will be solicited from Colorado businesses and organizations in the months leading up to Colorado Gives Day. The Incentive Fund will be proportionally allocated across all donations received on Colorado Gives Day, increasing the value of each individual gift. Each donation received during the 24 hour period starting at 12 a.m. on December 8 will receive a proportionate share of the Incentive Fund—regardless of the time of day it is received. 

Increase the impact of your giving! Click here to receive a reminder email on Colorado Gives Day!

Lettuce Give Thanks

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Let Us Give Thanks
By Max Coots

Let us give thanks for a bounty of people.

For children who are our second planting, and though they
grow like weeds and the wind too soon blows them away, may
they forgive us our cultivation and fondly remember where
their roots are.

Let us give thanks:

For generous friends…with hearts…and smiles as bright
as their blossoms;

For feisty friends, as tart as apples;

For continuous friends, who, like scallions and cucumbers,
keep reminding us that we’ve had them;

For crotchety friends, sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;

For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and
as elegant as a row of corn, and the others, as plain as
potatoes and so good for you;

For funny friends, who are as silly as Brussels sprouts and
as amusing as Jerusalem artichokes;

And serious friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle
as summer squash, as persistent as parsley, as delightful as
dill, as endless as zucchini and who, like parsnips, can be
counted on to see you through the winter;

For old friends, nodding like sunflowers in the evening-time,
and young friends coming on as fast as radishes;

For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold
us, despite our blights, wilts and witherings;

And finally, for those friends now gone, like gardens past
that have been harvested, but who fed us in their times that
we might have life thereafter.

For all these we give thanks.

Thanks to Debra Johnson for passing this on!

Glorious Garlic

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What garlic is to food, insanity is to art. – Augustus Saint-Gaudens

Garlic, the heart and soul of so many savory dishes, requires some planning on the part of farmers and gardeners. Less than a week after the season end, staff and volunteers at DeLaney Community Farm were putting garlic in the ground for the 2011 season.

Bucket of garlic, ready for planting.

Faatma plugging elephant garlic into the ground.

Letitia follows, tucking in the cloves for winter.

Danielle covers the freshly planted rows with straw.

Kevin, a DeLaney volunteers, assists with straw mulching. Volunteers like Kevin are crucial to DeLaney’s success.

With the garlic field ready to go, the DeLaney farm community can look forward to a delicious harvest in 2011. Craving garlic? Celebrate this Thanksgiving with garlic roasted winter squash, a quick, easy, and mouth watering autumn dish:

Garlic Roasted Winter Squash

Makes 2 servings

This recipe is great for smaller squash varieties that can be halved and then eaten as boats. Delicata, acorn, and small butternut squash work well.

1 small winter squash, halved and seeded

4 cloves garlic

Olive oil or butter

Salt

Optional: sage, oregano, or thyme

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place the squash halves cut-side up on a baking sheet, and place two whole garlic cloves, and a sprinkle of herbs, if using, in the hollow space of each squash. Brush the flesh of the squash with olive oil or butter and then add about a tablespoon of oil or butter to the hollow space along with the garlic. Sprinkle with salt and roast until squash is tender when poked with a fork, and the garlic is soft and beginning to brown (roasting times depend on squash size). To eat, mash the garlic into the squash with a fork. 

 

A Healthier Meal is a Happier Meal

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Posted by Emily Frost, Communications & Programs Intern.

The Golden Arches. Perhaps even more so than our flag, Lady Liberty, or the amorphous “Land of Opportunity”, these arches are the iconic representation of America.

If you’re anything like me, you delighted in trips to McDonald’s as a child largely because of the promise of the Happy Meal, featuring the toy inside that magical box of joy. I collected, coveted, and loved those cheap pieces of plastic. They were a part of my childhood culture. They may soon be a thing of the past—not just my own, but America’s.

The hottest food news sweeping the nation from our western shores has people in a tizzy about the state of the Happy Meal after the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance that effectively kills the McDonald’s Happy Meal.

Joe Eskenazi of the San Francisco Weekly perhaps puts it best when he wrote: 

It seems the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has accomplished what the Hamburglar never could. They’ve made off with McDonald’s fare.

But is the death of the Happy Meal really something to be mourned?

One of the board members who voted to increase demands for meals that include toys shares his reasoning in the Los Angeles Times:

“We’re part of a movement that is moving forward an agenda of food justice,” said Supervisor Eric Mar, who sponsored the measure. “From San Francisco to New York City, the epidemic of childhood obesity in this country is making our kids sick, particularly kids from low income neighborhoods, at an alarming rate. It’s a survival issue and a day-to-day issue.”

Take a look at what the ordinance actually asks for here:

  • Calories cannot exceed 600.
  • Sodium cannot exceed 650 milligrams.
  • Fat cannot exceed 35 percent of total calories, with less than 10 percent coming from saturated fats (some exceptions).
  • Meals must include fruits or vegetables.

Seems reasonable.

And in fact, the Happy Meal is probably not dead—just reinventing itself to accommodate these healthier demands. In a time when childhood obesity is on the rise and this generation has a life expectation less than our own because of it, can we really afford NOT to demand more from the food industry? The San Francisco Supervisors have let us know what they think in their clear 8-3 majority vote last Tuesday.

Time.com writer Josh Ozersky offers his opinion on how this will impact the food industry:

The problem with the San Francisco approach is not that it won’t work — it probably will. If you are trying to keep kids from eating big, fattening meals, so as not to become big and fat themselves, arm-twisting McDonald’s into making its Happy Meals less caloric is one means by which to do so.

Another means of ensuring a healthy AND happy meal future for our children is through education. At Denver Urban Gardens we’re doing this through supporting 25+ school gardens, allowing kids the opportunityGenerations connect while learning first hand the joys of gardening and the goodness of fresh, local food. to get their hands dirty and experience a growing season as well as take valuable vegetables home to family. Our philosophy incorporates a cross-generational approach through our “Connecting Generations” program as we work to empower students to make informed and intelligent food choices. We value nutrition education and ultimately believe that the intrinsic benefits of community gardening and empowerment to make smart food choices are worth more than any toy.

Read more about our School Garden & Nutrition Education programs here.

 

The Hedonist’s Garden

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He even made the cover!Our own John Hershey, board member, former garden leader, and author of Rakish Wit, is featured in the Fall issue of Edible Front Range! Check it out:

In the springtime, garden writers everywhere rhapsodize about that glorious season of rebirth, when the earth comes alive, bursting with new vitality. This is all wonderful, but there has to be a flipside. If spring is the time of rebirth, then autumn must be the season of redeath.

While the spring garden teems with hope and possibility, a feeling of impending doom hangs over the garden in the fall. We count the days until the average first frost date, wondering if each tomato we pick will be the last one to ripen in time. The contrast is intense: Just as the garden reaches its peak lushness and finally begins to yield a bountiful harvest, a crisp new bite in the morning air reminds us of the inexorable passage of time that will suddenly turn it all into compost material.

The ephemeral beauty of the garden is a metaphor for our own lives. And long experience has led me to a profound insight that can help us make sense of these complicated feelings:

Life is like an ear rub.

Find out how life is like an ear rub by reading the full post at Edible Front Range. To read more from John, click here