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Building Community from the Inside Out

Meet Alex, DUG Volunteer, Farming Youth Educator, and Future Urban Planner

Since landing in Denver a couple of years ago, Alex Curtis had embedded himself  in the community through volunteering and working with food, farming, and education at different levels.

After 10 years working in software sales and marketing, Alex Curtis found himself disconnected from the world wondering if that was his calling or what he could do to feel fulfilled and an active member of the community.  Alex got into community agriculture in Indianapolis where he became involved with the Mad Farmers Collective at South Circle Farm, an organization dedicated to helping create a healthier Indianapolis, growing fresh produce using organic methods in a 1.5 acre farm on the southside of downtown.

Alex has become part of the DUG family as a constant volunteer at different events, planting food forests and at garden workdays, and we wanted to get to know him a bit better. Here is what we found out:

How did you get involved with Denver Urban Gardens
When I moved to Denver from Indy two years ago, I was looking for a way to connect with the urban food community, so I did a search on organizations working in community gardens and DUG showed up. I had no idea the community garden network was so big here in Denver, so I immediately signed up to volunteer.

What was that experience like?
It was great. I signed up for a corporate workday where a group of people from a company go to a garden to do major work. We worked on pathways and fixing garden plots and I absolutely loved it! But it was at the next event I volunteered for, the Spring Plant Sale, that I got to meet the entire team and it was amazing. Everyone feels so engaged with the work and connecting with a broader community, so it was exactly what I was looking for. 

Why do you like to volunteer with DUG?
This might sound crazy, but it’s really a selfish act. I just love the work, it brings me joy to be out in the community with this team and getting to know the city through DUG. So I see it as more of a benefit to me than anything else. Volunteering with DUG has helped me connect with the different neighborhoods and communities in the Metro Area because the gardens reach many different parts of the city. I feel that I’ve been able to get to know this city and communities in a short amount of time because of DUG. 

Work & Life
I’m currently working part-time with SustainED Farms supporting garden curriculum work for youth. I also work as a farmer and lead educator for the ‘Dream Big Day Camp’ program in partnership with Denver Jewish Day School. I love working with kids in the farming context because we can connect their food to the place of origin. Obviously age has a big impact on what we cover, but building a base of knowledge and sparking curiosity is great.

I’m also excited to start a master’s program in Urban & Regional Planning at the University of Colorado Denver in August, and one of my goals is to get more involved with local policy as the next level of community involvement.  

What are some crops you are growing with the kids this year?
We are growing a three sisters garden to explore the concept of farming in an ecological way, using companion planting and supporting cultural traditions. I do wish I spoke Spanish so I could connect better with some of the kids, but that limitation has allowed other kids to be the mediators and take a more active role supporting me with translation, which I just love. 

Besides that, I’m growing Anaheim peppers for the first time mostly because I want to roast them to make chili, and I want to start growing more crops that have been staples of this region for thousands of years.