Thursday, December 2, 2010

Interning at Feed Denver by Sydney and Jacob

Harvesting crops, spray painting signs, gathering compost, and learning more about how important purely organic foods are to the community are things that we do on a weekly basis. As two seniors in high school we, (Sydney Hunter and Jacob Donaldson) have been very privileged to volunteer at Feed Denver: Urban Farms & Markets. Starting out as a service learning project, for a class of ours, we did not know how much we would really learn through our service.

On our first day we drove to the old Stapleton airport grounds not knowing what to expect. We were welcomed with open arms and we started learning right away. In the first day alone we learned the importance of pure soil while even preparing for a farmer’s market in an underprivileged community. We have learned through the example of people like Will Allen, founder of Growing Power, about the purely disgusting truth of most of the food we eat as Americans. This is what organizations like Feed Denver work to fix. Feed Denver is trying to fix the unhealthy and tainted food system in the world today. They use natural and organic growing techniques (for example, harvesting worm juice to use as both fertilizer and pesticide). Although a very large focus of Feed Denver is on the food, while working with Feed Denver we have learned that it is about the community as well.

Feed Denver creates job opportunities in the community. For example, Feed Denver has hired eight Bhutanese refugees to share their knowledge of farming from their culture and to incorporate it into Feed Denver’s mission. By collecting compost from local coffee shops and restaurants, Feed Denver is able to use the community’s resources to create rich soil and therefore, rich food.

As busy High School students, we have been very blessed to work with Feed Denver learning not only how to farm and harvest crops but, how to be benefactors in the community. From this experience we hope to have a greater influence on our communities for the rest of our lives.

Here's a video of us talking about our work at Feed Denver: See Video

Sydney Hunter and Jacob Donaldson

Seniors at Rock Canyon High School

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


The first thing that I notice when I enter OiNK’s, the new BBQ spot on East Colfax in
Park Hill early one morning is that there is a baby in a baby seat on the counter. A man behind that counter is stirring something in a huge silver pot on the stove and it smells good! In the corner, at a four top, a voluptuous young woman in a grey T-shirt with a baby blanket draped over her shoulder is talking to a delivery guy. The restaurant space is clean and new looking, bright morning light shining in through the large windows to the east. Even though it’s in a mall it feels comfortable.

When the delivery person leaves, I am introduced to Bobbi Capps, who with her husband
Mason runs and owns OiNK’s BBQ. By now the baby in the seat is comfortably sitting at the table and is quietly watching our conversation unfold while mom rocks him gently to and fro. She is relaxed and friendly even though I can guess that she has a thousand things she needs to attend to before the lunch crowd comes through in a couple of hours.

One of the reasons I am here is to pick up a donation in the form of a check for Feed
Denver: Urban Farms & Markets. The check is the result of a fundraising event sponsored by OiNK’s for its opening debut in May. Mason and Bobbi tell me that they are committed to contributing to their community. They do this by supporting the burgeoning sustainable sector in Denver. This means that each month they choose to support an organization like Feed Denver, that engages in ‘green’ development or
promotes local sustainability in some form. Being social media savvy, they use
Facebook & Twitter to advertise their specials, including free or discounted rewards to those who bring in their own coffee mugs, bus passes, bikes or plastic bags. Devotee’s also come out to eat at OiNK’s on fundraising days like the one they had for Feed Denver. This way a relationship is created between OiNK’s and those customers who care about the same things the owners do. Everyone gets to support their favorite local charity groups or non-profit organizations that are specifically dedicated to bettering the environment. It’s a win-win situation which is how Bobbi and crew like it.

The couple are eager to let me know that in planning their restaurant, when it was still a dream a few years ago, they agreed on the importance of supporting the local economy by keeping the food not only affordable but also healthy. I ask her what that exactly means. For one, Bobbi tells me that they use only antibiotic free meats. They get chicken, sausage and pork locally. Ideally OiNK’s would get all their meat locally but, citing cost and availability, beef is not local, yet. Mason says that it will remain a goal set for the future. He mentions that customer demand and a sustainable local support system needs to be in place before this can be realized. Hopefully, he says, ‘we will get there’. Meanwhile, their efforts toward prooving their commitment to bettering their community through sustainable, local practices is evident. They use Continental Sausage, a local company renowned for their high quality meats. OiNK’s also buys their wood locally and uses 100% recycled paper products. The restaurant uses compostable products avoiding plastics that are not biodegradable. They even recycle their cooking oil through a local company that uses it to create biofuel.

The Capps believe their success is related to their vision of creating relationships within the community and working towards a better, healthier world while creating some really kickin’ BBQ. I think they might be onto something. Throughout our freestyle mini interview, the baby has been cooing, cradled in mom’s arms. Bobbi’s husband Mason has checked in a couple of times to offer some insights about the restaurant and the small staff has been steadily gearing up for lunch. It’s all very natural feeling and inviting. The room smells fantastic and I’m hungry way too early. The famous OiNK’s cupcakes, made by Bobbi who also bakes creative cakes and makes flower arrangements by request, sit on the counter under a glass display, tempting me. As I pass the cash register, I order a couple of cupcakes to go… creamy sweet butter frosting and bacon bits sounds quirky but good.

One more thing before I leave: I ask Bobbi about the adorable T shirt she is wearing – it’s made from what’s called ‘Transitional Cotton’, which helps reward farmers who are making the switch from traditional cotton to organic, a time frame that is costly and often hard for the producer. That’s the way it is at OiNK’s, consistently supporting real causes.

The next time you head to Oinks with a craving for good and real food, you know you are also contributing to a better world. Good food made by real people. Something to look forward to.

This interview was conducted and written by our own Silvana Hoitt, New American program director and Coffee reader extraordinaire...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Lately on the Farm....

We reached our goal! Thanks to generous donations from our supporters during the global giving campaign our New Americans will have warm clothes to farm in this winter and our greenhouse will be flush with new crops. The farm at Stapleton is alive with activity and visitors, and the spinach is looking mighty. You are welcome to come visit the farm and see how your donations are working, taste some fresh greens, or pet the goats. Contact a Feed Denver staff member to arrange a visit!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Video Mapping!

Too often in the political sphere the people on the ground level, those living in the neighborhoods affected by policy change, may not be accurately represented. Lack of ability to talk to professionals in a language they understand is often at fault. In the case of city planners, it is maps and technologically savvy mapping techniques that determine hugely important issues such as zoning changes. Many times these maps are created without the consultation of the neighborhood. In a community this could be the deciding factor in the very identity of it's physical and even cultural feel.

We plan and design the city according to these maps, and people who are affected can and should have a voice in the democratic decision making process. As part of our summer program our youth corps "the worms" had the opportunity to make a video highlighting where they went and how they see the neighborhood. Creating a video map allows them to talk about their neighborhood and claim ownership and responsibility for it. Here we have some of the kids living in the neighborhood of 42nd and Steele Parking Lot Farm giving a tour. They don't have anything to say about setbacks yet, but they can tell you all the best places to find apples, ride bikes, and conversely areas to avoid.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Cool nights and labor day barbecues mark the end of summer's raging heat, and the beginning of sweater season. It is not too late to plant though! Now is the time to plant late summer crops like deep greens; spinach, lettuce, broccoli, and root vegetables- beets, radishes, winter carrots, and turnips. You can always extend the growing season by creating a glass, fabric, or plastic cover; something that holds the heat in during the early freezes. Here at the Feed Denver Farm in Stapleton we have the benefit of a hoop house that can regulate the temperature through thermal mass in order to grow all winter long. We are also planting outdoors with the help of some fabric covers. We will have fresh organic produce available all year round!

A large part of our winter growing season preparation success is due to a refugee program we started a few months ago. The "New Americans" program provides agricultural training and potential job opportunities to eight adult Bhutanese refugees. While the language barrier has been frustrating at times, the work accomplished by and the camaraderie built between new americans and staff has been profound. Currently we are making ready the greenhouse to accommodate fall and winter crops, starts have sprouted, and the outside beds are being plied with vermicompost and bhutanese songs. Feed Denver gives shares of our vegetables to our New American workers, and they teach us about squash leaf soup. It is a good exchange.

We are hoping to continue to provide learning experiences and a chance for a better life to these New Americans. As part of that goal we are trying to raise money for winter clothes like hats and gloves, as well as support for our winter crop operation. We have currently become part of a global giving campaign in order to accomplish these goals. Consider being a part of our continuing effort to grow communities along with local food! Visit this link in order to find out more and contribute.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Farm Markets at 42nd and Steele!

The farm at 42nd and Steele is blooming! Our community stewards are busy pulling weeds, watering through the heat of the season, and harvesting all the vegetables that are ripe and ready. The parking lot, which was once hot and desolate is now crowded with greenery and a buzz of people.

This Thursday night the 19th we will hold our first farm market there from 6-8, with produce fresh from our gardens made available (Snap benefits accepted!). Our community stewards are also heading up a hot dinner by donation, with hot dogs and homemade sides benefiting the project. There is going to be entertainment and socializing, food and fun, and of course fresh produce. Come make the farm sparkle with your presence and enjoy the evening! This will be the first of five consecutive farm markets held there Thursday nights from the 19th of August through the 16th of September. The markets are a step towards the sustainability of our 42nd and Steele farm, and providing fresh affordable foods to the people in the neighborhood. Hope to see you there!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Cooking Class Video w the 42nd St Youth Core ('The Worms')

Cooking Class @42nd Avenue Farm

North East Denver Knows

As part of a generous grant received by the City of Denver, we have hired and are in the process of training four community stewards at the parking lot farm on 42nd and Steele. Our four musketeers are responsible for the watering and general maintenance at the farm, and of course never-ending weed control duty. They range from age 16 to a vivacious grandma, and and we are very glad to have them! All four of our community stewards live and eat in the neighborhood directly surrounding the farm, and are invested in the little patch of green south of the freeway.

In conjunction with their daily farm duties our community stewards are conducting "stories from the community", an oral history project with emphasis on the agricultural knowledge of those who live in the neighborhood. In this story-core like project we hope to capture the rich cultural and farming experience from this area. The history of the Globeville/Elyria/Swansea neighborhoods is filled with the life histories of people who immigrated from all over the world- specifically Eastern European cultures and most recently Latino populations. Too often the old world knowledge of these populations is lost as they move towards assimilation into the American culture and their children grow up outside of the home country. The traditions of cooking and growing traditional foods is of crucial cultural importance and we are keeping record of it! Also, as we move back towards more home grown and less energy intensive methods of farming and producing food, we will be in need of the techniques that these people still practice.

Check out some of the first videos to be taken by our community stewards at: and

Monday, July 19, 2010

Slow Money Part II: What is the solution?

The farmer says to the investment banker- "why not stay a while? Let's talk beets"

Slow Money pertains that the solution to decreasing soil fertility, bloated stock markets, and over produced commodities is one of small and local investment. Slow money is what happens after we have figured out that industrial agriculture and industrial investment have left our soils, farms, and communities depleted. Slow money quite literally "slows" down money to a place where it can impact local economy and support local farmers in a very real way. It takes investment and finance out of huge unwieldy world systems and puts them back into small and recognizable local systems.

Woody Tasch started as a venture capitalist and entrepreneur, and knows intimately the underbelly of conventional financial system. Ultimately he recognized that the system he was working under was not ideal, and slow money is an attempt to reconcile that. There are many kinds of capital, and slow money attempts to recognize and develop social capital as well as financial capital. What this means is that the idea of investing changes from a double digit return, to a return in social cohesion, a return in fertile land, and a return to integrated local food. The idea is that many people invest a little bit, or even a few people investing quite a bit, in order to see these things happen. The principles; as taken from the website are as follow

"I. We must bring money back down to earth.

II. There is such a thing as money that is too fast, companies that are too big, finance that is too complex. Therefore, we must slow our money down -- not all of it, of course, but enough to matter.

III. The 20th Century was the era of Buy Low/Sell High and Wealth Now/Philanthropy Later—what one venture capitalist called “the largest legal accumulation of wealth in history.” The 21st Century will be the era of nurture capital, built around principles of carrying capacity, care of the commons, sense of place and non-violence.

IV. We must learn to invest as if food, farms and fertility mattered. We must connect investors to the places where they live, creating vital relationships and new sources of capital for small food enterprises.

V. Let us celebrate the new generation of entrepreneurs, consumers and investors who are showing the way from Making A Killing to Making a Living.

VI. Paul Newman said, "I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer who puts back into the soil what he takes out." Recognizing the wisdom of these words, let us begin rebuilding our economy from the ground up, asking:

* What would the world be like if we invested 50% of our assets within 50 miles of where we live?
* What if there were a new generation of companies that gave away 50% of their profits?
* What if there were 50% more organic matter in our soil 50 years from now?"

By supporting local farming we support local economy, and the health of our food system and also the health of our community. Rather than sending our money in overseas stock trades, we are sending our money to family farms and a vibrant agriculture.

Find out more by checking out Tasch's book or the website

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Slow Money Part 1 "What is the problem?"

So a farmer and an investment banker walk into a bar….
What would they say to one another?

This is the question that forms the foundation of the Slow Money movement started by Woody Tasch. We live in a time in which large farms and big business are par for the course and yet our soils are becoming depleted and the quality and nutrition of our foods lessen with every pesticide application.

Soft commodities (agricultural products that are perceived to have the same quality no matter who produces it) account for a large portion of the stock market and an even larger percentage of what farmers in the United States are growing. The issue is partly due to poor policy. In the farm bill farmers are paid subsidies based on per bushel quotas, and there are virtually no subsidies for farmers growing fresh produce outside of corn, wheat, and soy. These are often over-produced and then manufactured into stranger yet food-like products (cue high fructose corn syrup). Yet, the expectations of consumers and investors has been one of ever cheaper food and higher returns, so the subsidies continue to flow and farmers continue to grow more food faster. It all adds up to a system that recklessly seeks profit before sustainability. The USDA subsidies the top 10% of recipients with 74% of the entire allotment of subsidies. This means that the big farmers, the ones holding the largest tracks of land with the most technology get the greatest amount of money to continue doing what they are already doing- growing global commodities of corn, wheat, and soy. Farmers with thousands of acres would find it difficult to have the time, nor inclination to walk their land and identify the source of pest problems or create modes of growing companion plants together to avoid them in the first place. It is more efficient to grow acres and acres of mono-culture and then spray the entire thing. Eventually this kind of intensive industrial farming erodes the soil as well as being a questionable practice for the health of workers and consumers.

The buy low sell high mentality of investment, the mentality that drives the farm bill and commodity trading, has to change in some way if we are going to change the way food is grown. Big business principles which in the last half century have directed the movement of money have begun to show an inherent weakness. In past year, the financial meltdown bore witnesses to institutions that were thought to be bullet proof crumble before our very eyes. The current recession teaches us that we cannot expect the same return on investments that was standard even a few years ago, and that a different kind of investment strategy must evolve. The kind of unlimited growth preached by the stock market is simply unsustainable. There is also the sense of meaninglessness in the practice. If investors sole purpose is to accumulate as much wealth as possible, then what? They have no connection to the place or processes that helped create their wealth. I may be an optimist, but I believe that people have an innate desire to be part of something bigger. If money makes the world go round, why not make it go round in a trajectory that honors our land and local economies and people?

Two of our Feed Denver principles had the privilege to attend the Slow Money conference in Vermont this past week. They came back inspired and ready to put some of the Slow Money principles to work. Could you invest some of your money to see local and sustainable agriculture work profitably? There are opportunities right here in your own city. Feed Denver is working to create city wide urban agriculture, one that will provide healthy fresh foods grown by people, not machines or wall-street.

Written By: Julie Malinsky, Feed Denver's Jill of all trades

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

From Asphalt to Asparagus

The transformation from barren to vibrant is well under way. Funded by a generous grant from The City of Denver, in collaboration with the community, and with the help of about twenty White Wave volunteers, Feed Denver has installed a parking lot farm in the Globeville/Swansea/Elyria neighborhood. We somehow wrangled up the trucks and stamina to haul about 35 yards of compost and mulch which covered the hot cement and cheat grass to provide a large space to grow food for the neighborhood. Already there are seeds in the ground and green things popping up. We can only imagine the complete metamorphosis to come, when event the brick will have tomatoes grown vertically!
A market is soon to follow, providing fresh produce to the community. As of now these three neighborhoods have no grocery stores or fresh food access within a reasonable distance. We hope to change that by growing food both horizontally and vertically up the brick wall of the adjacent warehouse. As part of the program, Feed Denver will also train a group of youth stewards from the community to help run the farm and market, as well as participate in an oral agricultural history of the neighborhood. Globeville in particular has a long history of multi-ethnic diversity and many of the immigrants to the original steel mill town, Polish, Irish, Italian, and Mexican, brought with them knowledge of particular foods and the best ways to grow them. We hope to preserve that priceless knowledge, and put food where there was an abandoned space!
There are many other changes afoot in that neighborhood. The parking lot farm is on the corner of 42nd Steele, next to the old Safeway ice cream plant. Some years ago David Karas, a local business man, bought up the building and has been converting it to a food production facility for Wild Thyme food products and other local food producers who benefit from the industrial rated kitchen and expansive warehouse space. He has graciously allowed us to place this community farm on his lot. Feed Denver hopes that eventually the farm, literally right outside the loading docks, will grow enough food to supplement the needs of the local businesses inside, and provide a sustainable model of agriculture that benefits the community and entrepreneurs alike.
We are still planting! Any vegetable starts and seeds you have to donate are appreciated! You can contact the Feed Denver office to arrange pick-up or delivery.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Networking for Good

No non-profit is an island, to survive our organization needs to be involved with the larger community of activists, communities, urban farms, and change makers. We can share ideas and support one another as the sustainability and food security movement begins to take hold. 

Our School at Blair Grocery
is a vital school, farm, and community center in New Orleans ran by a prominent teacher come organizer Nat Turner. Turner left a six figure job as a debate teacher to reclaim a New Orleans landmark after witnessing the devastation post-Katrina. Our School at Blair Grocery is in the lower ninth ward, a poverty stricken area in New Orleans that was left particularly vulnerable after the hurricane. The Blair Grocery had served the lower ninth ward for years, and was an important African American run business for the area. The children of the Blair family grew up to become doctors and lawyers. Blair Grocery has always been held up as an icon for how member of struggling communities can develop into valuable members of society if given the right opportunities. After hurricane Katrina the grocery store was unable to stay afloat like so many other businesses and shuttered their doors.

Nat Turner is returning that legitimacy to the lower ninth ward with Our School at Blair Grocery, which gives the neighborhood youth opportunities to learn urban farming, nutrition, and entrepreneurial skills. Turner and his crew have power washed the walls and reopened the doors as a vibrant community gathering spot. It is an agri-educational training center, and quickly becoming a source of pride for the community. Two important figures in the Feed Denver office, Rick Garcia and Kate Johnson, are in New Orleans this weekend to connect with Our School and build an aquaponics (fish farm) there. They are participating in a growing global community of people who care about local food security, real education for all people, and thriving urban farms. We are sure they are learning a lot of things they can bring back to Denver as well!

Become involved by learning more about Our School at Blair Grocery here:

Become involved with a community of Urban Farm advocates right here in Denver by joining us for an annual Spring Clean Up Volunteer Weekend! We will compost, plant, weed, and be a part of the movement!

April 10th, 9-4
April 11th, 10-4

Call or email to let us know your coming, and we'll see you this weekend!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Spring Volunteer

There are prairie dogs here, they poke their heads out of holes that litter the land and dispense admonishments with sharp clicks as I turn off of Smith road and into a small parking lot. The noise of the freeway drops away and the smell of chickens and earth becomes stronger.

It is a Monday and a layer of dust covers everything in the Feed Denver office. The chickens are growing larger and their home has expanded to the entire south wall- they scratch at the wood shavings covering the floor, squawk, and stir up feathers and food. Monday is cleaning day. We dust and wipe, sweep and order, and try to clear our heads for the tasks at hand. We talk about the coming spring; radishes and micro greens to be planted, signs to be painted, events to be organized, newsletters to be mailed. There is so much to be done, it fills our heads and spins us sick like a ferris wheel.

Alright, Excel, help us in our time of need! We sit down to make sense of it all, make lists of tasks, and who will do them. Organization! Organization will save us! We list them; Task, What is Needed, Timeline, Notes- Who will man the farm market? Who will retrofit the hoop house? Paint the barrels? Stir the compost? Around and around it goes until a form begins to appear in columns and rows. And we pray for the form of it to show us results, the coming of spring, and people who are willing to get their hands dirty. The radishes will push their way through black earth, we will notice the how the sun shines just so on our grasses and garden beds, and with the ease of the seasons things become, and signs get painted.

You can help us usher in the spring by volunteering too; we will be having a joint Feed Denver and the Urban Farm clean-up weekend on April 10th and 11th. We will be revamping the hoop house, planting, weeding, and turning compost. Call or email to let us know you are coming and we'll make sure to save a place for you. Our farm stand will be open and have fresh greens and early produce to sell along with baked goods, sandwiches, and drinks.

Monday, March 8, 2010

76 Trombones Led the Big Parade!

On Monday March 1, Feed Denver expanded their employee base. We received 76 baby chicks sent through the mail and they are growing quickly! The baby chicks keep us company in the office where their chirping is a constant reminder of their presence. Already their wings are beginning to show and develop and within 8-10 weeks they will move into their new digs, a spacious wooden chicken coop with three separate grazing areas. Kate Johnson, the chicken queen here at Feed Denver, says they are healthy and most of them will make it out to the chicken coop. She is especially excited for the Cuckoo Marans, a French breed, who lay dark brown eggs. "In about ten weeks they will have all there adult feathers and can move out into the chicken coop, late April or mid-May, depending on the weather. Right now we are feeding them pellets, but eventually we want to move them onto vegetable scraps and a mixture of seeds for scratch." Johnson has been studying the local prairie ecology and in the bigger picture she would like to see them also subsist on seeds and other foraged food from the land surrounding their chicken coop.

Chickens can be a valuable source of food for families and individuals in the city. 7 chickens can produce up to 35 eggs a week, which can then be eaten as omelets, turned into homemade pasta, or used for baking. In these difficult economic times, chickens can provide a source of delicious food and entertaining pets! They are easy to maintain, as long as you have a little bit of backyard space and a bit of time for feeding and collecting. Currently it is legal in the city of Denver to own chickens, although a permit must be obtained and the law as it stands now does not allow owners to sell the eggs for profit. It is also a good idea to talk to your neighbors ahead of time and make sure they know you will share! Johnson says that as time are getting more and more difficult this is an easy and cheap way to provide food for your family! Contact Feed Denver for chicken raising educational opportunities or with any questions.