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

Rendezvous @Oinks BBQ: GOOD FOOD MADE BY REAL PEOPLE

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.
video

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:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lU9tRihuib0 and
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sQD0LFib8o