Happy Holidays and thank you for being a part of our “growing” community! For those of you who were unable to attend the 2009 workshop, here’s a brief recap of our weekend to inform you and – we hope – to encourage you to attend future events at our farm. For those of you who DID attend: thank you! And you’ll want to read on for our take on the weekend and for news about YOU! We’d love to hear from you too. Please visit us at http://www.facebook.com/FeedDenver to share your thoughts, photos, updates and wish lists.
“From the Ground Up” Workshop with Will Allen and Growing Power: a Success!
Up until three weeks ago, the idea of attending a Growing Power workshop in Denver was just a dream for many in the increasing urban agriculture industry, and in our community. Well, the dream became a reality and now we can say for sure, “The Farm has started!” What an amazing weekend it was and we are grateful to the corps of volunteers who gave many hours in planning, preparation and delivery; to the many sponsors who helped us meet our goals; and to Will Allen and Growing Power for committing to this much-needed partnership.
On Friday, November 13, Will Allen gave an inspiring presentation to a group of 100 middle school and high school students from the area. One of the themes that echoed throughout the weekend is that, whether you are talking about food and nutrition reform, healthcare reform or even welfare reform, we MUST make education a priority for ourselves, our families and our communities. At Feed Denver and through our partnership with The Urban Farm at Stapleton, education and outreach will continue to be our focus and our strength.
On Saturday, November 14, a diverse group of over 120 workshop participants (from all over the region, state and surrounding states – even two from NY!) braved the incoming blizzard to soak up the knowledge that Will Allen and his Growing Power outreach team so expertly and generously shared, and to gain the wisdom that only a hands-on experience can elicit. After another impelling presentation by the guru himself that morning, we broke out for the day’s works-of-love:
· Small-scale compost construction using a simple and sustainable 5-pallet , modular system. The compost group broke into three teams and each team hand-built a system using donated carbon materials (wood chips, leaf waste, etc.) and donated nitrogen materials (mostly waste food from hotel and other commercial operations). UPDATE: we are happy to report that Compost Bin #2 is, so far, the most highly successful in terms of internal temperature. Go team! We are certain that the other two bins will catch up and – who knows? – will provide the same nutrient rich soil that is the whole purpose of the exercise: to grow soil.
· Large-scale compost construction utilizing a windrow method and heavy equipment. Once the teams learned the basic compost recipe, it was time to move on to a grander scale. We didn’t offer any lessons in heavy equipment operation though, LOL, and, for some of our participants, none was needed.
· Urban animal husbandry, goat keeping and cheese making. Yummie! Breakout participants in this session learned about the day-to-day operations of goat keeping, milking and animal love with a focus on milking, herdshares, and a taste of pure, fresh organic raw goat’s milk to warm tummies and nourish body and soul.
· Literally “from the ground up” hoop house construction! Workshop participants completed the frame construction of our first hoop house (1000 square feet) using recycled, donated and easily obtainable and affordable materials. Nothing high-tech here, just high-minded, handmade and doable… and did we mention we did this in a blizzard?
· Last but not least, workshop participants began construction of the worm depository by hand-trucking organic compost layers to the site and then celebrating the Introduction of the Worms! As snowflakes fell and stomachs rumbled, we looked upon our work and said, “It is good.” We will be utilizing Growing Power’s method of worms-as-livestock in that the worms are not necessarily used in composting, but they are used for the “higher good” of making potent, nutrient-dense castings for fertilizer and organic effluent for pest control and foliar feeding.
On Saturday night we held our first-ever fundraiser at Fuel Café in Denver. We enjoyed a delightful turnout (in spite of the mounting snow), to-die-for appetizers and organic wine, and the gift of Will’s company and charisma. AND we had a visit from the Mayor’s office and the Director of Denver Public Health which, in no small way, gives credence and momentum to our efforts. Thank you, everyone, for the pleasure of your company!
On Sunday, November 15, we were pleased and honored to see that our wearied and snow-cold participants had returned almost in full to finish the task of completing the hoop house construction, worm depository and more. Before beginning our day’s work we held a 2-hour long stand-and-be-counted session where all participants were encouraged to individually rise, share with us their personal background, and state their goals for attending the workshop and their hopes for the future. We were BOWLED OVER by the diversity and strength of our group! Our participants included representation from SEVEN universities (both student and faculty), city planners, architects, teachers, current and future farmers, horticulturists/permaculturists, foodies, doctors, lawyers and media specialists.
Included in Sunday’s breakouts were:
· A thoughtful and serious panel discussion covering the future of urban agriculture (“The Locavore’s Conundrum”), the relationship between commercial planning & development and city governments, the State of the Art in current residential developments (“Net-Zero Communities”), and even academic thoughts on art, agriculture and sustainability.
· Completion of the final layers of the worm depository. Will inspected our construction and gave his blessing to what literally is our most valuable “livestock”.
· Completion and skinning of the hoop house. This was probably the most breath-taking event of the weekend: watching a herd of participants hold up the special “skin” (UV wicking poly) and drape it over our future.
· Beekeeping essentials. This was an intense session covering everything beekeeping including start-up, maintenance, the business of honey, and the love of it all.
· Construction of a scaled-down, trial size, modular aquaculture system for the hoop house. A closed-loop system developed by Growing Power, this construct utilizes recycled and found wooden frames, an organic and anti-microbial fish tank lining, and organic “scrubbing” (filtering) plant layers that are fed by the fish and grown by the sun in the greenhouse. Pump power will be generated via solar panels or – on a larger scale – via methane digestion technology which utilizes fish and food waste.
WHAT’S HAPPENING IN 2010?
Spanish-language Workshop and Curriculum
One of the exciting programs we are developing is a Spanish-language “From the Ground Up” weekend workshop with Will Allen and Growing Power as well as continuing education and collaborative outreach to Spanish speaking communities in the Denver area. We are currently seeking English-Spanish translators who also have an understanding of construction and agricultural language and concepts.
Women’s Farm Collaboration Project
Will Allen often says in interviews that the future farmers will be women and young people. We find this true in our own team makeup at Feed Denver. We decided to begin planning for a women’s farm to support this. This is a project which focuses on disadvantaged and struggling women in Denver; we hope to provide practical urban agricultural training in a safe space focused on both re-skilling and business management preparation. Child care will be provided as well as access to basic service needs such as a kiosk for government services applications like food stamps and WIC, workforce enrollment and job search resources as well as visits from health professionals for both the women and their children. “Feed Denver” is not just a name: it is our commitment.
Photos of “From the Ground Up” Workshop are Here!
Photos and beautiful faces from our fantastic weekend are now available! Please visit http://photomirage.smugmug.com/ and click on the “Feed Denver with Will Allen” gallery to view photos from the 2009 workshop. Part of the proceeds from the purchase of these photos and collateral merchandise will be made to Feed Denver. Thank you!
New Organic Waste Partners
Just in time for our workshop weekend we found a waste partner in The Food Bank of the Rockies at 47th and Havana. We were short of waste supplies for our compost training and Will Allen looked out from his hotel, The Embassy Suites, and said, "That's where you'll get your best compost materials!" Well, we called and they said, "REALLY?! NO REALLY?! You want our rotten old food?" And they proceeded to give us an entire truck load of onions followed by another of pineapple! Just what we needed.
We are now delighted to announce that next week we will begin receiving ORGANIC PRE-COOKED FOOD WASTE from our neighbors in our Stapleton community: Chipotle Restaurant and Odyssey School! Our partner, Waste Farmers, will facilitate weekly pickup and delivery to our farm.
Waste Farmers is a city wide zero-waste company they collect residential, commercial, and construction waste and find appropriate uses and homes for all of it. You can find them at www.wastefarmers.com, tell John Paul we sent you!
A compost-warm THANK YOU to our friends and neighbors who share our mission! Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have commercial sized amounts of organic waste to donate on a regular basis.
Feed Denver C.R.EW. Needed
Feed Denver is looking for a C.R.E.W.: Cold Rescue Emergency Workforce. Just like our venerable volunteer fire fighters, we need a corps of volunteers that may be called upon, last-minute, to come out to the farm to feed animals, tend the hoop house and aquaponics systems, and monitor other operations when temperatures sink below freezing. We also need sponsors to provide weather-appropriate clothing like waterproof ski overalls, boots and maybe a hot coffee now and then. Can you help? Please contact email@example.com to let us know of your interest. Thank you!