About a quarter of the produce grown on all our farms is donated back into the community to social service organizations through Healing Foods. Some of the organizations our Healing Foods program works with include Project Angel Heart, SafeHouse Denver and Family Tree. In partnership with Denver Health we identify twenty individuals dealing with extreme illness and deliver a weekly package of fresh produce to their doors. In 2017 we donated over 2,200 pounds just through our healing food programs which does not include our donations for volunteers, students, and community events.
Pay What You Can Farmstand
All of our farm stands have historically operated as pay what can stands in the communities our farms are located. We host a twice weekly farmstand at Celebration Gardens and once weekly stand near Sister Gardens. We invite our community to purchase our highest quality produce picked that day and to pay what they are able to. We keep the interactions as private as possible and always aim to uphold the dignity of those we serve by inviting them to make their own food choices regardless of the money they have. In 2017 our Sister Gardens farm stand partnered with LivWell to offer Double up Dollars for any customers on SNAP.
No Cost Grocery Program
No cost grocery programs are an important way to address the major gaps in the city’s food redistribution as most food pantries are located within certain city blocks often far away from the lowest income neighborhoods. There are also other barriers such as id requirements language differences, and the overall quality or nutritiousness of the food. Through a partnership with the Denver Food Rescue our farmers, students and volunteers pick up produce and other food items from Whole Foods and Sav a lot once a week and set up a no cost grocery store on our farm. This program allows us to help address the needs of the most food insecure people in our communities year round and also builds a bridge to the farm for those unfamiliar or unaware that the farm is also a community resource. In 2017 we served over 3,700 participants and redistributed over 40,000 pounds of food.
The People's Gathering
In 2019 we are honored to take the mantle and host for the first time The People's Gathering: Food Justice and Cooperative Building. This gathering was born out of the void of a food education conference in Denver. This year we will host morning and afternoon workshops and panels discussions, entertainment and food circled around food justice and cooperative building. More information forthcoming.
Visiting Schools Program
We have been fortunate to regularly host student groups from preschool to university aged and adult learners. Having access to the types of experiential learning opportunities that the farm and the Center afford to students is not limited to only Regis University students. We are happy to support the work of colleagues Dr. Rene Galindo and Professor Ramone Parrish at CU Denver and Naropa University and the students they teach in their food justice courses. We also love to have student groups and particularly young children at the farms. We participate every year to host over one hundred children participating in African Heritage Carribean Camps, which seeks to offer adoptive families with cultural and shared experiences, for activities on the farm.
We believe that farms in urban centers do best when they are active and living parts of a community. All of our farmers are specifically skilled in volunteer management. It is important to include volunteers in planning and execution phases of community projects and we rely on the help in labor to increase our production. Working with volunteers must be mutually beneficial and foster a relationship that is educational and makes all involved feel valued. All of our farmers work directly with groups of young children, high school and university students, corporate groups, volunteer organizations, and countless individuals. In 2018 alone our farms worked with over six hundred volunteers on countless hours of work.
Monthly Class Series
For the past three years we have held a monthly class series at Sister Gardens with a sliding scale, nobody is turned away, pay set up. The classes follow relevant gardening topics with the season. In 2017, our Cultivate Health neighborhood healthy living coordinator conducted a survey for community members to let us know topics they were most interested in and we directed our classes to meet those interests. We learned for the 2018 season that many people were interested in herbalism in particular and so we included an ‘herbalism from different perspectives’ series into our monthly classes. In 2018 we expanded to offer garden based classes for adults at Celebration Gardens and we created programming for children’s garden based education on Saturday Market Days.