WHO WE ARE
We are a food justice and farmer advocacy group led by womxn and BIPOC.
We are a community engaged in food production and education along the Front Range. We grow high quality, organic food which supports fair wages for our farmers and is distributed through sales to a network of restaurants and institutional purchasers, sliding scale sales at farm stands and donations to a variety of non-profit partners. We undertake our work in order to honor the land and the community we cultivate. As educators we engage a range of individuals from elders to toddlers in ethical and sustainable growing practices that enhance land and community connections. We have done all of this while helping to build and expand a network of farms and farmers who mutually support one another’s work and vision of agriculture in Denver.
Addressing immediate food needs of our communities and offering the foods they want. Programs we direct toward this include: Healing Foods (food donation program), the No Cost Grocery Program, Participation in SNAP and Double Up Food Bucks, Commitment to increasing SNAP enrollment in 2020 by becoming trained in SNAP enrollment.
Addressing the institutions that perpetuate the segregation and distribution of food, and appealing to those same systems for change. In establishing our Center for Food Justice and Healthy Communities, we seek to support policy initiatives that help transform our food system. This includes linking Farm Bill policies to support small farmers and farmers of color in accessing land, increasing access to healthy foods in urban and rural communities and includes supporting programs like SNAP.
Addressing the true spiritual, mental, and physical needs of our communities and being in control of the means of production. We believe in: Self representation, questioning epistemologies, centering future leaders and knowledge keepers, building our foodways, creating ceremony from different cultures, questioning language, writing a book for new food equity measures, conducting equity in the food system trainings, and creating our own foodways growing areas.
We work at the intersection of food because we know that food shapes cultures, societies, where we work, and how we are valued. Our work to create changes in the food system is one way in which we can bring greater structural change and equity to systems that articulate profit as the only motivation.
Our work is divided into three strategies (which are also not always mutually exclusive) of food security, food justice, and food sovereignty. While sovereignty is the end goal, we know that our work is not linear and that we must approach our real problems at multiple levels simultaneously.
WHAT WE DO
FrontLine Farming operates as a multi-plot farm committed to providing food to people of low income and lack of access to healthy food by sustainably growing affordable local food in the Denver Metro Area. We engage our communities by educating our youth and neighbors on growing food and promoting healthy, active, lifestyles, beautifying our neighborhoods with edible landscapes, and reducing the distance from farm to plate.
WE GROW COMMUNITY
The garden has become a place where people from the community come together. Natural events such as solstice and equinox are held in the garden. The garden has hosted group permaculture action days where over 200 people have shown up to work collaboratively, has partnered with the City Repair Project for a day of activities revolving around making cities reflect community values, and has hosted diversity workshops taught by activists and professors from the community. We also began and are completing a labyrinth in 2018 to create a space for people to walk and contemplate. Spaces for meditation and walking paths are a wonderful addition to a garden, act as a landmark within a city for a garden, and allow people to be in a garden actively taking time for themselves and enjoying the habitat.
Under the leadership of our farmers the work and reputation of Sister Gardens as an ambassador for farmer rights, good food, and food justice has grown regionally. We have cultivated close partners in the neighborhood and have been engaged in promoting the work of our farms by participating in the Denver food movement. Ms. Emmad been a panelist for Slow Food Nations on food sovereignty, a speaker on immigrants and refugee farm policy for slow foods leadership summit, the keynote speaker for Denver Housing Healthy Living Summit, a speaker for Denver Public Schools Garden Sustainability Forum, amongst other speaking and teaching she has engaged in. She and Dr. Thompson applied to the Denver Mayor’s Advisory Council on Sustainable Food and were selected amongst a competitive pool of applicants for three-year terms beginning in 2018.
Preservation of Culture
The garden acts as a space to honor diversity in people and land. Native communities have the opportunity to offer blessings to start events, traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremonies have been held her and crops have been selected for genetic preservation. Since 2016 one entire area of the garden has been dedicated to a Bio Regional foodways that focus on crops traditionally grown in the Four Corners area and preserving seeds from these crops. In 2018 we have added an area that focuses on African foodways and crops that are specific to the African and African American food legacy that is infused in the foods we eat and farming practices we employ in the United States.
WE GROW HEALTHY SOIL & FOOD
Digging and Design
All our beds are separated by permanent paths we trench, covered with weed mat and then mulched. The mulch recycles tree removal waste, assists in suppressing weeds, and maintains moisture in the adjacent beds. We do not spend our time rebuilding our beds every year or redesigning spaces. The beds are exactly 48 inches which allows for easy reach for a person from either side of path. We do not spend time wasting amendments or causing nutrient run off with paths because they are permanent. We employ hand techniques such as double digging. This technique involves the loosening of two layers of soil, and the addition of organic matter.
No Till / Conservation Tilling Practices
Conservation tilling increases the amount of water that infiltrates into the soil and increases organic matter retention and cycling of nutrients in the soil. This type of soil management is proven to prevent soil erosion and soil compaction. These practices also maintain the diversity of life and organisms which improves the soil biological fertility making the soils more resilient.
Carbon sequestration and fossil fuels
No tilling increases carbon in the soil and the use of our cover crops which we process into compost and return to the soil also contributes to carbon sequestering. Our elimination of using machinery such as tractors or tillers also mitigates our use of fossil fuels.
Conservation of Water Resources and Nutrient Recycling Irrigation
Our farms are irrigated by drip tape. Our drip system saves water and nutrients by allowing water to drip slowly and directly to the roots of plants. This system of watering directly to the root zone minimizes evaporation and conserves water that is lost from overhead watering systems. Our water application efficiency is high as we check our lines as an almost daily ritual and we reduce fertilizer and nutrient leaching from our soils.
At our largest site, the farm land and entire adjacent living complexes drain into a detention pond that was designed with perennials and fruit trees. The detention pond is also important for protection against flooding. We installed a wash shed in 2017 for cleaning and processing our produce and built in a French drain. The French drain takes water from the vegetable processing and feeds it into two of our large beds.
Approximately half an acre of land at our largest site was a giant hill that was slated to be removed and given to us. The entire half acre is terraced, and we employ permaculture systems of berms and swales. The concept behind a terraced system is that when it rains the nutrients are not washed away but instead carried to the next level. Swales compliment this system because they are in a way ditches that help retain or at least slow down the movement of water. We are a unique example of a terraced farm area in Denver.
We plant the beds with cover crops in the fall such as winter wheat, clover, vetch and peas. These crops protect and enrich our soil, prevent soil erosion and water runoff and improve the soil structure.
Straw and Mulch
This helps protect our soils, prevents moisture loss, suppresses weeds and composts into nutrients for our soil.
We companion plant for nutrient recycling such as beans and corn and weed suppression such as squash with beans and corn (the three sisters). Our three sisters beds are a favorite on tours and classes because it is an accessible way if understanding symbiotic relationships. It also allows a way to increase agricultural yields and forces us to constantly think about relationships between different plants.
We encourage growing diverse cultivars of plants and educating people on the different benefits. Instead of only growing orange carrots, we grow a rainbow of colors and cultivate over thirty varieties of tomatoes on our farms. We grow almost only heirloom varieties and focus on seed saving.