The country’s largest independent network of food-producing community gardens is serving over 40,000 Coloradoans through gardens and programs. Denver Urban Gardens (DUG) provides access to homegrown food and educational programs. If you live in an apartment or townhome where you can’t garden or don’t know where to start with gardening, DUG can provide you with the resources to grow your own foods. Currently, DUG has 192 gardens across the metro area and over 70 school-based gardens.
One of DUG’s goals is to combat food insecurity. Sadly, food insecurity is still a nationwide problem, and people in our community are struggling to find their next meal. Through DUG’s initiatives, programs, and resources, they are taking steps to help this problem and provide opportunities for people who can’t afford to grow.
“People from all walks of life come to these community gardens to grow,” says Rob Payo, the Director of Youth Education for DUG. “We have people that are doing this as a hobby and wanting to learn how to garden. Other people, this is the way they help support themselves in terms of providing healthy food access or to grow foods from their native countries.”
Payo mentions that people have lost connection to the food they eat, and DUG strives to bridge that gap by providing space and resources for the community. By reconnecting people with the food they eat, it can be a potential gateway for people to become more aware of the problems and issues that gardening can help solve.
“We also have a master composter program where people can get a more in-depth understanding of composting…in terms of reducing food waste and extending the health of the soil,” Payo says.
There are several benefits to tending to a garden, from helping your mental health to having access to nutritious foods. Payo mentions a recent scientific study about the value of community gardens which finds that connecting with the community and growing your food results in individuals making healthier meal choices and overall improving well-being.
There are also benefits for children to get their hands dirty in the garden. Children will begin to understand where food comes from and the work that goes into getting a fresh tomato or a piece of lettuce for a sandwich.
“We really encourage teachers to think in terms of it’s not so much about production and produce, it’s more about getting kids outside and getting their hands in the dirt,” Payo says. “Some schools will actually harvest their food and then sell it to the cafeteria. They get a kickback of funds that will go back into the garden to support it.”
With several community gardens around the Denver metro area, take the step and grow your food with your family. If you already produce your own fruits and vegetables, consider joining a program to learn how to compost leftovers.
“You start to recognize that this is something you can do, not just as a hobby, but as a way of making life more sustainable,” shares Payo.