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food programs and initiatives
Urban Botanical University and
Soul 2 Soil
Denver Botanic Gardens is committed to increasing access to fresh, healthy food. With this in mind, the Gardens helped launch the urban farming initiative Soul 2 Soil with Denver-based social entrepreneur Chris Christmas. Our horticulturists created Soul 2 Soil’s Urban Botanical University curriculum to guide instruction – be it hands-on, classroom-based or via e-learning platforms – of urban agricultural best practices. Using Urban Botanical University, members of our Horticulture Department oversee the teaching and management of vegetable gardens at Mariposa, a new Denver Housing Authority (DHA) development. The Gardens also runs a produce distribution program at Mariposa and provided 1,100 pounds of fresh produce to DHA residents in 2013.
Chatfield Community Supporting Agriculture (CSA) and the Community Garden at Congress Park
Denver Botanic Gardens has operated a community garden since 1981, and our CSA program at Denver Botanic gardens at Chatfield that launched in 2010 was the first offered by a botanic garden. More than 500 families enjoy fresh, locally or self-grown produce with the CSA’s 350-plus subscribers and more than 150 Community Gardens’ gardeners. Nearly one ton of vegetables from the CSA and 900 pounds from the Community Gardens were donated to food banks and other distribution programs in 2013.
The Gardens has a longstanding tradition of healthy food education for children and adults. Our Education Department visits schools across Metro Denver and the state with the Cultivation Cruiser, a classroom-on-wheels where kids learn about plants. The Grow Local Colorado program helps design vegetable community gardens across the metro area. Onsite classes and events use the gardens at York Street and Chatfield as living classrooms and some highlights include our Seedlings and Plant-to-Plate classes for kids and families, along with an ever-changing offering of seasonal cooking classes. The Gardens is also the perennial host of Food Day, a national celebration featuring food sampling and education every October 24. Chatfield’s new Veteran Reintegration Program invites veterans to volunteer at the CSA, while benefitting from horticultural therapy. And at the university level, this year the Gardens’ Director of Horticulture Sarada Krishnan will co-teach a class at MSU Denver on urban farming.
You could say Denver Botanic Gardens has been in the food business since our establishment in 1951, as plants are the foundation of the entire food system. We continue to focus on edible plants at both our York Street and Chatfield locations. The Sensory Garden at York Street stimulates all five senses – including taste. Le Potager Garden features vegetables, herbs and edible flowers, and much of its bounty contributes to the Gardens’ food distributions. The Chipotle Home Harvest Garden at Mordecai Children’s Garden hosts kids’ food-based classes.