Monday, May 25, 2009

Urban Agriculture Coalitions

There is an amazing buzz in Denver about Urban Agriculture as a key to sustainability of our city. We have been involved in a number of great activities and forums and have begun partnering with some amazing partners to create a coalition to address the sustainability of our food systems.

Sustainable Food System Partners
We have formed a partnership with The Urban Farm at Stapleton as well as Denver Public Health to strengthen our outreach as well as to pull together the strongest coalition to address the issues we are all focused on. With the Urban Farm we have created the Metropolitan Denver Food Systems Project which teams us with Growing Power, Denver Public Health, Denver Environmental Health, Denver Public Schools, Denver Urban Gardens, Denver Botanic Gardens, and Waste Farmers to create a Regional Training Center at Stapleton.

Grow Local Colorado
We are on the committee for Grow Local Colorado as well as SPROUT (Sustainable People Reaching Out fro Urban Transformation). We have joined forces with Grow Local to plant an edible garden in Civic Center Park.

Bring on the New $5.5 Billion Urban Agriculture Industry

The most compelling information:
The Bad News - currently Colorado produces less than 1% of our food needs. If our sources were cut off we would have less than a week of food supplies. This is not a healthy position to be in. Most of it comes from 2,000 - 6,000 miles away. That's a carbon and security nightmare!

The Good News - in the Denver Metro Area our food purchasing power is $5.7 Billion. This means we send $5.5 Billion dollars away by purchasing all of our food from an average of 2,000 miles away. We can do better than this!

Urban Ag Summit

Denver's Office of Community Sustainability Invites Feed Denver to Speak

In March, Feed Denver was invited to speak to Denver city officials about Urban Agriculture. Although it was impromptu it is now being referred to as "The Summit." We pulled together a number of people and organizations already active in food production in the city to show how it looks and why it's needed.

Among those present were Denver Public Health, Denver Urban Gardens, and Heirloom Gardens. We spoke to individuals from community sustainability, community planning and development, zoning, environmental health, animal control, Greenprint Denver and Denver Water. (We were later invited to speak to the Mayor's Office of Economic Development.)

The reaction was mighty!

The Message
We communicated how urban agriculture is very different from the image we all have of large, industrial ag in rural areas. Urban ag is limited by land availability and the closeness to residences and businesses. This will make urban agriculture unique in its look and production methods. It will also create a completely new industry in the city of locally produced food and food products.
  • The carbon footprint will be close to zero as distribution needs drop due to proximity.
  • In limited space agriculture goes bio-intensive and vertical, using every inch of space available.
  • The only way to do this is to use organic techniques.
  • Year round production in enclosed spaces will be a key to our sustainability.
  • We will need to grow an abundance of food inside to be protected from weather.
  • We will need to develop appropriate sized food producing animals to serve our protein needs.

Feed Denver Team Trains with Will Allen at Growing Power

In March the Feed Denver & Friends team visited Milwaukee to train with WillAllen and the whole team at Growing Power. We took courses from Compostingand Vermiculture to Growing Greens to Building a Fish Run to BusinessPlanning. We got our hands dirty and dug right in. We had greatconversations, made amazing contacts, and absorbed as much as we possiblycould (which wasn't too difficult as it was a very wet, rainy weekend!) Andit was fantastic! (Enjoy the photos to the right

We were nervous our grand plans would be scrapped after seeing how it allactually works but the opposite happened. We learned that this is a do-ableproject! We are so excited to get started now. We are exploring potentiallocations for the first farms and hope to secure them soon. We are writinggrants furiously to raise the funds to see these dreams become a reality.
While in Milwaukee we discussed the possiblity of working with Growing Powerto establish a Regional Training Center here in Denver with theirassistance. We are now working towards this opportunity and hope to make ita reality.

Back row: Patrick Harrington (Vital Farm/Vital Yoga), Will Allen (Growing Power), Aaron Makaruk (Vital Farm), Crystal Cervantes (Feed Denver)Front row: Jennifer Weiczorek (Denver Public Health), Lisa Rogers (Feed Denver), Sarah Gabriel (Feed Denver)