Fall Reflection: Cultivating Hope
As we approach the end of the 6 month growing season in the near desert that is Colorado, it is time to reflect on “the season” that has nearly passed and start planning for 2023. So much more to do. So much more food to grow. So many more people to support. So much more soil to heal. So many more connections to foster. So much hope to cultivate.
2022 has been a busy year for Denver Urban Gardens (DUG)! In addition to building 2 new gardens, bringing us up to 192, we have been pursuing our BIG ROCKS: Food Forests for All, Grow a Green Workforce and Dig Deeper in Denver. Each rock has rolled a bit further down the road this season…
Our FOOD FOREST INITIATIVE
What’s a Food Forest? It’s essentially a glorified orchard. Fruit trees and perennial bushes and vines intentionally planted in guilds. An approach that we believe will work well in our harsh, semi arid climate.
- By adding food forests to our gardens, we are adding much needed shade, increasing biodiversity, capturing carbon and helping enrich the soil to retain water and nutrients.
- I’m delighted to report that in its inaugural year, our Food Forest Initiative has been fully funded by a generous new donor who was inspired by the long term food-producing potential of this program.
- We’ll plant 6 this year and 14 more next year including a new free standing food forest in North Denver.
- We will have installed 20 by the time we meet again for next year’s fall reflection.
- This program was seeded by The Giving Grove.
GROWING A GREEN WORKFORCE — DUG CORPS
- The DUG Corps was established in 2021 to provide boots on the ground (or hands in the dirt) to catalyze community building and provide support to our 17,000 gardeners.
- In its 2nd season, the DUG corps went from 3 to 7–1 per micronetwork — and became an Americorps program, thanks to Colorado State University and Serve Colorado!
- Thanks to the DUG Corps, every single garden has been visited and 21 events were held:
- Skills labs with Jungle Judy
- Compost education
- Social events.
Last but not least, DIG DEEPER IN DENVER.
- DUG’s BASELINE INFRASTRUCTURE INITIATIVE (BII) continues as a critical element of our work to ensure all gardens in our network equitably resourced to thrive.
- We made improvements to 28 gardens over the course of 48 volunteer work days engaging over 1,000 corporate and individual volunteers.
- We’ve also been adding Sustainability features including rain barrels, solar panels, sheds, season extension, pollinator gardens, compost & straw.
- We evolved our GROW A GARDEN program in beautiful ways distributing 1,500 pre-set seed and seedling kits and expanded our YOUTH SKILL BUILDING to include the youngest learners through ECE.
Things are not going to slow down in 2023 as we continue working on each rock, ever-evolving and improving our systems and processes and integrating JEDI practices into all we do as we amplify the impact of our work to better serve our community.
And as we DIG DEEPER IN DENVER, specifically:
- We are planning THREE NEW COMMUNITY GARDENS: A purpose built garden for Firefly Autism in Lakewood, our 1st new free standing food forest in Denver’s North Side and a revised and revamped garden in Aurora designed in partnership with the Denver Permaculture Design Course which has been run through the DUG office this year.
- We are full steam ahead on our THERAPEUTIC GARDEN INITIATIVE — activating community gardens for therapeutic use for kids with special needs by adding sensory and free play elements and educational signage to select DUG gardens, while providing support to organizations around metro Denver supporting this population.
- And we’ve just been invited by the American Immigration Council to join the BELONGING INNOVATION LAB — a fellowship made up of community based organizations across the US. We will be learning how to deepen feelings of inclusion & belonging in our gardens, especially amongst our non US-born gardeners. With DUG’S highly diverse community, the potential for this work to create true and meaningful connections across Denver is gargantuan.
I gotta say — the work we do at DUG fills me with enthusiasm, pride and joy. And, most importantly, HOPE. In the words of Lao Tzu, “As long as we have hope, we have direction, the energy to move, and the map to move by.” We, at DUG, have HOPE in spades.