Exploring a New Career Path

By July 7, 2021August 4th, 2021Faces of DUG

#24: Meet Alex, our first Fransisco Cordero Legacy Apprentice

Our longtime contractor and friend Fransisco Cordero passed away in November 2020 due to complications with COVID-19. In 2021, we established the Fransisco Cordero Legacy Apprenticeship program to provide pathways into career fields with urban agriculture. Alex Oldham is our first apprentice with the program.

“I’m 20 years old and live with my foster parents. With the pandemic happening, I had to stay in a lot. Because they’re older, I didn’t want to risk them getting sick for me going out or anything. So I picked up a night shift at FedEx. I was doing that for a very long time. Then my brother-in-law introduced me to a friend. And I guess, he also knows the Executive Director that works over here at DUG. He had been sending me a few different applications of places. When this one popped up, I was interested because growing up, I worked outside doing farm-type work with my grandfather in Oklahoma.

In Oklahoma, the atmosphere is different (than in Denver). Being in the country is different. The smell of manure is everywhere. Taking care of cattle, making hay, riding the tractor, and stuff like that. But it’s cool. I also just wanted the change of being out in the daytime, in the sun after being out at night all the time.

Not everything is necessarily gardening with what we’re doing. Some days, we have to use wheelbarrows, and we’ll put really heavy gravel down, just scoop it all in there. And then carry it over to lay it on the pathway. The similarities of being outside in the sun and working hard is what carries over to this. There’s a lot of work to do – just seeing what every garden needs. If they need their fence fixed, we’ll go do that. I’ve gone to Home Depot to get some parts for water tank adapters. I’ll be mowing lawns, doing wherever (the gardens) need. Oh, and a lot of weed pulling, too!

I’ve been learning a lot from Nessa [Director of Physical Infrastructure and Community Engagement] and about what DUG really does. I like seeing everything growing. So far I’ve learned that we have like 180 something gardens all around Denver and Lakewood and stuff. I didn’t expect that a lot of them are refugee community gardens.

Sometimes the fruits or what they want to buy at the store they don’t have from their own places, so they can just grow it in their garden. That’s really cool to see. The price of getting a plot for the year isn’t that much. So I think that it gives them the opportunity to keep making the food that they want, without having to make a lot of money to go buy food. Because I know coming to America and getting jobs and stuff like that is a lot harder.

 I’m a really picky eater. I like all kinds of fruit, but vegetables are not my thing… so everyone is trying to give me vegetables, like sugar snap peas or something like that. That’s the only thing I’ve eaten so far. They’re really secure about their stuff and they like everyone to see what they’re growing. They’re always asking me to try something new. 

I think me being also a person of color, and then seeing all these other people of color and different ethnicities that are from other countries come into these gardens. Helping in any way that I can help them is why I feel like I’m really here. I’m helping the people who really need the gardens to grow their food. So that’s why I like it, I like helping them and want to continue to be in the position to help other people with their gardens.”

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