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Production

Increasingly across the state, gardeners, ranchers, and farmers are developing or promoting direct markets for their products in their own communities – urban, suburban, or rural. These efforts reflect the growing interest in providing fresh, nutrient-dense foods for one’s community; providing more hands-on nutrition education opportunities; reducing food storage, processing, and travel; and, supporting local economic development.

LiveWell Colorado recommends the creation of local land use policies that allow and incentivize food production, including home-based and community food production and agriculture.  See Policy Recommendation #1 on page 10 of the Food Policy Blueprint.

For strategies on how to identify, preserve, and promote land for human food production in rural and small communities, see page 11 of the Guide to Integrating Healthy Eating and Active Living into Colorado’s Rural and Small Town Communities.

For strategies on how to review regulatory impediments to urban agriculture and strengthen support for backyard gardens in suburban and urban communities, see pages 13 and 15 of the Guide to Integrating Healthy Eating and Active Living into Colorado’s Suburban and Urban Communities.

For model initiatives that support community food production, search the LiveWell Colorado Healthy Eating Active Living Library online collection of codes, ordinances, resolutions, policies, and other tools to help communities create environments that support healthy food production.

 

Community food production can take a variety of forms:

Community Gardens

Community gardens are thriving in our metropolitan areas – Denver Urban Gardens alone builds close to 20 new gardens each year.  There are many forms of communal or collective gardening. Not all community gardens look the same. However, the basic tenets of any community garden project are shared space, shared responsibility, and shared learning about the food grown. Learn more…

Backyard Gardens

Whether a window box of tomato plants or an entire yard of fruits, vegetables, and chickens, backyard gardens play an important role in the local food system and in providing access to healthy foods for residents. They provide fresh produce for the gardeners and their neighbors, foster an understanding of the source of delicious fresh food (especially for young children), and even support ecosystems and encourage physical activity for people of all ages. Learn more…

Urban Agriculture

Urban agriculture is a catch-all term for a number of types of projects.  Often these are small farms or greenhouses that grow produce and raise animals in vacant lots, industrial areas, or in networks across a city.  These can be commercial or non-profit ventures that infuse large amounts of fruits and vegetables into shops and homes in the area.  Many have had especially significant impacts in low-income areas. Learn more…

Food Production on Public Lands

Publically owned lands are generally preserved for recreation and municipal purposes.  Some communities are beginning to open these areas up (or return them) to limited farming and ranching, particularly in locations with historic agricultural uses. Examples of public lands could range from medians and greenways to community parks to significant open space acreage. With careful planning and strict guidelines, this land can be used for crops or as pasture, and can benefit both the land and the community through food production as well as community education. Learn more…

Land Share Programs

Farmland, water rights, and important production skills can be passed down from experienced and retiring farmers to new or returning farmers and ranchers with the help of established organizations. These programs guarantee that agricultural land remains in production and promotes the handing down of valuable skills and local knowledge of the land. Learn more…

 

Community Gardens

Case Studies

How one passionate farmer rallied her community to create a garden

Denver Urban Gardens assists neighborhoods and community groups as they work to create their own urban gardens, and it has established more than 100 gardens across the Denver metro area. Most DUG community gardens are located in the city’s low- to moderate-income neighborhoods and, in total, produce over 300 tons of fresh produce each year. In an east Denver neighborhood, DUG helped a refugee community establish a 50-plot urban garden and park on a formerly vacant lot.  It began with one woman gathering her neighbors to plant vegetables on the lot and grew into a community garden that truly supports its residents.  For more information, click here.  To see DUG’s Best Practices Handbook, click here.

How a community garden is providing healthier school lunches

Pikes Peak Urban Gardens was started in response to a lack of community gardens in the Pikes Peak region. Since 2008, PPUG has helped establish several community gardens, incubate two urban farms, start a “No Vendor Fee” Farmers’ Market, build a demonstration garden, and given numerous talks to over 3000 people in the Pikes Peak region.  In 2012, PPUG started growing salad greens in an off-the-grid greenhouse at the Galileo School of Math and Science in Colorado Springs.  The salad greens are served in cafeterias throughout Colorado Springs School District 11, providing a healthy, local lunch for students.

Reports: Research, Articles, and Guides

Denver Urban Gardens’ Best Practices Handbook for Creating and Sustaining Community Gardens provides a tangible road map and technical assistance directions for creating a sustainable community garden.

Gardens for Growing Healthy Communities, a CDC-funded community-based research initiative of  Denver Urban Gardens and the Colorado School of Public Health, explores how gardens, as neighborhood places, support healthy living.

Community Gardens: The New Victory Gardens in a Public Health Crusade, a report by the Center for Civic Partnerships, highlights a number of case studies from community gardens in California, emphasizing their impact on community health.

Urban Agriculture & Community Gardens, a report published by PolicyLink highlights the health and economic benefits of urban and community gardening while addressing challenges and providing models from around the country.

Tools and Technical Assistance

Guide to Setting Up A Food Donation Program in your Community Garden, a checklist developed by Denver Urban Gardens, provides detailed steps for establishing and implementing food donations from community gardens to pantries.

Food Safety Guidelines For Your Harvest, a document developed by Produce for Pantries, provides concise instruction on safe handling, storage, and delivery of fresh produce donations from backyard or community gardens to pantries.

Denver Urban Gardens offers several Community Gardening Resources to assist in the cultivation and management of a community garden.

Colorado Master Gardener, a program of CSU Extension, provides gardening resources and numerous publications on weed management, compost, and fruit and vegetable planting.

The American Community Gardening Association fosters an online network of community gardening research, tools, funding opportunities, and publications.

 

Backyard Gardens

Case Studies

Gowing Healthy Families Through Community Food Systems

In 2009, Revision launched Re:farm Denver to develop a community-driven food system in low-income food desert neighborhoods. This program empowers residents to create initiatives that increase the access and affordability of healthy, locally grown food, to gain self-sufficiency in providing food for their families, to eat healthier, and to ultimately lead to community economic development.

Re:farm has four main strategies: cultivate local leadership and capacity, increase local food production, create a neighborhood food distribution network, and launch community-owned food related businesses.

Since 2009, Re:farm has helped over 200 low-income families learn how to grow food organically in their backyard. Revision provides all of the resources, along with free workshops and technical assistance to each family.

Revision then trains and hires local residents to become gardening and healthy eating promotoras, who work directly with each family. Promotoras develop deep relationships amongst their network of gardening families, buidling community, as neighbors begin helping each other, sharing produce, and working together on other issues.

Re:farm has also developed 2 one-acre urban farms. One is at a middle school, growing food for the school cafeteria. The other urban farm is home for 40 Somali Bantu refugee families.

Re:farm is currently piloting a market place that will become a future community-owned grocery store. This cooperative will sell produce that is purchased from the neighborhood, and develop value added products. Profits will be paid as dividends to community members, and invested into other enterprises through a revolving loan program.

The Re:farm model also helps create a local economy to make food affordable and accessible to rest of the community. Residents are able to purchase food on a sliding scale depending on their household income, earn credit towards food by working at the community farm, or by volunteering on various projects.

How a network of backyard gardens is feeding a community

Sundari Kraft, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Urban Homesteading, translated her love for urban farming into a community project in 2009 by founding Heirloom Gardens, LLC.  It began with 6 gardens in Northwest Denver on individual house garden plots covering 8,000 square feet and has grown to 11 gardens with over 26,000 square feet of urban farmland in Denver, Arvada, Lakewood, and Wheat Ridge.  Volunteers cultivate gardens in the front and back yards of the Denver metro residents.  From these home gardens, Heirloom Gardens produces and distributes fresh heirloom vegetables and herbs to members of its Neighborhood Supported Agriculture (NSA), a very local form of CSA.  Heirloom Gardens prides itself in making personal connections with farmers and community members, utilizing sustainable food production practices, and building community.  For more information click here.

Models: Programs and Projects

The Free Seeds and Transplants Program from Denver Urban Gardens (DUG) provides free vegetable seeds and transplants to residents throughout Denver.  Gardeners growing produce for donation to food banks and pantries are also eligible.

ReFarm Denver teaches backyard gardening to families in underserved areas.  They train community members who have been through the program to provide the training to others in their community.

Produce Denver designs, builds, and maintains edible landscapes that will provide fresh produce for individuals and their neighbors in their home gardens.

Tools and Technical Assistance

Food Safety Guidelines For Your Harvest, a document developed by Produce for Pantries, provides concise instruction on safe handling, storage, and delivery of fresh produce donations from backyard or community gardens to pantries.

Colorado State University’s Food Producer Resources includes a list of helpful links for producers in Colorado, including information on food safety, local markets, and food labeling.

Colorado Master Gardener, a program of CSU Extension, provides gardening resources and numerous publications on weed management, compost, and fruit and vegetable planting.

 

Urban Agriculture

Case Studies

Across metropolitan areas in Colorado, urban agriculture initiatives are improving access to healthy food and increasing local production.  Learn more about who is leading the urban agriculture movement in Colorado:

Read about the first urban farm in Denver, Granata Farms.

Urbiculture Community Farms is committed to decreasing the distance from farm to plate by teaching the community how to grow food and enhancing Denver neighborhoods with beautiful, food-producing landscapes.  The Yard Angels Program turns donated plots of urban land, such as backyards, unused plots of land, church land, or school land into gardens that grow food to feed the community through a CSA.

GrowHaus is a non-profit urban farm and market in Denver’s Elyria-Swansea neighborhood working to create and nourish a healthy community through food access, production, education and job training. The organization supplies leafy greens to local restaurants and grocery stores and also conducts service learning and public, fee-based workshops.

Circle Fresh Farms has adapted highly efficient growing technology utilized by large-scale farms for small-scale urban farms along the front range of Colorado.  With this technology, they are able to connect with farmers to grow and sell affordable, locally grown, healthy produce where it is needed most.

Sprout City Farms develops farms on underutilized land in urban areas to improve access to healthy food in those neighborhoods.  Sprout City Farms currently cultivates a one-acre farm site on the grounds of The Denver Green School in Denver, which provides fresh produce to the students and community members.

Denver Seeds Task Force is an initiative of Mayor Hancock’s administration to support small businesses, create jobs and increase local food production to improve access to fresh food in Denver.  Watch a video on the Denver Seeds Initiative.

The Growing Project promotes the local food system of Northern Colorado and increases access to fresh, healthy food by establishing community gardens, offering educational programs, and advocating for improved community access to locally-grown food.

Feed Denver: Urban Farms & Marketsis a non-profit organization that works to educate the community and enhance the local economy through the development of sustainable, small-scale urban farms and markets. The organization collaborates with individuals, businesses, city leaders and communities to create pilot farms.  Feed Denver provides resource sharing, project mentoring, and fiscal management to these pilot farms.

Models: Programs and Projects

Denver’s Sustainability Park, owned and run by the Denver Housing Authority, serves as a learning center for environmental sustainability and agriculture, reserving plots of land for urban agriculture and leasing them out to local farmers.

The City of Fort Collins’ website hosts a page on urban agriculture with legislative updates, news, and upcoming events regarding local urban agriculture policies.

The Farmers for Chicago Network, established by the City of Chicago, is a collaborative between the mayor and Growing Power that will provide farm trainees with support to launch food enterprises, make acres of vacant city lots available to farm, and expand the local supply chain for food retailers.

County Commissioners Approve Changes to Agricultural Uses in Land Use Code is a press release from Boulder County highlighting changes made to land use codes that promote residential-scale agriculture, expand the opportunities for market farmers to connect with their customers, and allow small-scale processing on farms.

The Farmers for Chicago Network, established by the City of Chicago, is a collaborative between the mayor and Growing Power that will provide farm trainees with support to launch food enterprises, make acres of vacant city lots available to farm, and expand the local supply chain for food retailers.

Case Study Report 2012-2013, published by The Farm Alliance of Baltimore City, shares experiences of the organization’s efforts to form a network of producers working to increase the viability of urban farming and improve access to urban-grown foods.

Reports: Research, Articles, and Guides

Burlington Urban Agriculture Task Force: Report to Burlington City Council, a report published by The Burlington Urban Agriculture Task Force, provides policy recommendations for urban agriculture based on a survey of best practices around the country.

Growing Urban Agriculture: Equitable Strategies and Policies for Improving Access to Healthy Food and Revitalizing Communities, a PolicyLink report, highlights urban agriculture models from all over the country.

Growing Green: Measuring Benefits, Overcoming Barriers, and Nurturing Opportunities for Urban Agriculture in Boston, a report published by the Conservation Law Foundation, is a feasibility study for a hypothetical commercial urban farming venture that would cultivate many sites across Boston, totaling 50 acres.

Urban Agriculture: Growing Healthy, Sustainable Places, a report published by the American Planning Association, provides guidance for dealing with the opportunities and challenges faced by diverse cities and counties in supporting and expanding urban agriculture.

Urban Agriculture & Community Gardens, a report published by PolicyLink highlights the health and economic benefits of urban and community gardening while addressing challenges and providing models from around the country.

The Farm Incubator Toolkit, produced by The New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, is a comprehensive guide to planning and operating land-based beginning farmer training programs.

Tools and Technical Assistance

Colorado State University Extension offers numerous resources for food production in Colorado ranging from land acquisition to produce pricing to soil, plant, and cultivation research.

Colorado State University’s Food Producer Resources includes a list of helpful links for producers in Colorado, including information on food safety, local markets, and food labeling.

The Building Urban Farmers program offered by Colorado State University builds farmer capacity through classroom and experiential learning for farmers with 0-10 years of experience.

The American Land Trust offers resources and information on farmland protection policies, both statewide and federally.

The Food Safety division of the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services center provides updated information on food safety regulations.

INUAg.org is an up-to-date, organized and searchable resource for individuals, communities and organizations interested in urban agriculture.

Seeding the City: Land Use Policies to Promote Urban Agriculture is a toolkit from ChangeLab Solutions that provides a framework and model language for land use policies that support urban agriculture.

Carrot City is a research initiative that explores how design can enable the production of food in cities.  It contains over 80 case studies on design for urban agriculture.

University of Missouri offers a database of city ordinances and reports from around the country on the topic of urban agriculture.

SCOTie (Successful Communities Online Toolkit information exchange) is a database of policy and planning models and best practices from western communities, including urban agriculture ordinances.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, produced by ATTRA, provides technical assistance to farmers, ranchers, Extension agents, educators, and others involved in sustainable agriculture in the United States.

UrbanAgLaw provides guidance on interpreting relevant codes, laws, and ordinances, while offering models for regulations that support urban agriculture.

The Food Safety Website launched by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is intended to help farmers, processors, and other stakeholders understand food safety rules, learn about potential issues, and speak out about proposed legislation.

Food Production on Public Lands

Case Studies

How one community transformed open space into a community garden

Historic farmland provided by Aurora Parks and Open Space has been revived and is now home to the DeLaney Community Farm, which was established by Denver Urban Gardens as a community supported agriculture (CSA) project.  In addition to investing in the farm financially and receiving a share of the harvest each week, CSA participants share in the workload: planting, weeding, and harvesting the garden alongside staff and volunteers.  With food security as a main priority of the community farm, Delaney works with the Tri-County Health Department to offer fresh, nutritious produce to low-income women, infants, and children eligible for WIC.  WIC clients can exchange time working on the farm for a share of the harvest.  Transforming the empty open space land into a community farm has created a strong sense of community in Aurora, using public space to improve the health of its community members and preserve the rich agricultural history.

How one community encouraged food production through open space policy

In 2009, the Boulder County Board of County Commissioners approved the Boulder County Food and Agriculture Policy Council Strategic Plan, encouraging food production on city-owned open space land.  To adhere to this strategic plan, the Cropland Policy was established.  This policy, which outlines practices and guidelines that define sustainable agriculture, aims to help the Boulder County Parks and Open Space (BCPOS) Department become a national leader in economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable agriculture.  Currently, Boulder County owns or oversees almost 100,000 acres of open space, and approximately 25,000 acres of that open space is dedicated to agriculture.  The County oversees the land, manages leases to qualified operators, and tracks rent and crop production.  Over 90% of all crops grown in Boulder County enter into the food system, including alfalfa, wheat, barley, corn, sugar beets, and pinto beans.  Due to this great volume of production and the open space resources available, BCPOS works diligently to support producers and encourage local distribution.  The strategic plan aims to increase production on open space lands by improving conditions and support for farmers.  For example, the County has been developing and enhancing water sources, as well as challenging restrictive land use policies. Mark Guttridge of Ollin Farms in Boulder County, admires the uniqueness of the BCPOS leasing program because it supports the creation of new farms and offers beginning farmers the opportunity to start and expand their farming operations.  New farmers must go through the Colorado Building Farmers CSU Extension training program in order to lease from BCPOS.  In the coming years, the County hopes to maximize their use of agricultural open space and retain more crops for the local market.  For another Boulder County Open Space farmer’s story click here.

Models: Programs and Projects

At least 25,000 acres of Boulder County Open Space is leased to local agricultural operators.

Denver’s Sustainability Park, owned and run by the Denver Housing Authority, serves as a learning center for environmental sustainability and agriculture, reserving plots of land for urban agriculture and leasing them out to local farmers.

Invitation to Bid: Farmland Lease at the Aurora Municipal Airport is the bid request released by the City of Aurora, IL for farmers interested in leasing city land near the airport for their farm operations.

The Policy and Procedure Manual, produced by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, presents policies set forth in Illinois to allow for and sustain farming on public land.

Agriculture Lease Opportunity, from the County of San Diego, seeks proposals for 141 acres of vacant agricultural land within the city of San Diego.

Request for Applications: Common Ground Program, from the City of Lawrence, KS requests applications from individuals, businesses, and/or nonprofit organizations to apply for a license to use vacant or underutilized municipally-owned properties with the goal of producing fresh healthy food for personal consumption and/or sale.

Reports: Research, Articles, and Guides

Dig, Eat, & Be Healthy, a guide published by Change Lab Solutions, provides tools for accessing public land for agriculture purposes by highlighting case studies, common types of licenses and other agreements, and tips for navigating challenges.

Tools and Technical Assistance

Colorado State University’s Food Producer Resources includes a list of helpful links for producers in Colorado, including information on food safety, local markets, and food labeling.

SCOTie (Successful Communities Online Toolkit information exchange) is a database of policy and planning models and best practices from western communities.  Resources include a section on food production on public lands.

UrbanAgLaw provides guidance on the process of accessing public lands, best practices and case studies for food production on urban lands, and urban farming land inventories from cities around the country.

Planning for Agriculture: A Guide for Connecticut Municipalities provides a broad range of tools for municipal governments to protect and promote agriculture on public lands.

 

Land Share Programs

Case Studies

How one community is supporting land share for next generation farmers

Land Link is a program of Guidestone in Chaffee County, Colorado that connects retiring farmers and ranchers as well as absentee landowners with next generation farmers.  Guidestone is a non-profit organization dedicated to the integrity of the agricultural resources of the Upper Arkansas River region by fostering a local food economy, stewarding agricultural lands in production, educating for ecological literacy, and supporting sustainable development.  Through Land Link, Guidestone assists with crafting leases and equitable agreements between the landowner and the farmer in order to provide economically viable options for landowners that keep the agricultural heritage and water on their land intact.  The program also supports beginning farmers through an educational curriculum with a strong emphasis on financial planning, marketing strategies, business plans, food policy, legal issues, and production techniques. For more information click here.

Tools & Technical Assistance

CSU’s Colorado Building Farmers builds farm community and farmer capacity through classroom and experiential learning focused on business management, production, and marketing skills for farmers with 0-10 years of experience.

Colorado State University’s Food Producer Resources includes a list of helpful links for producers in Colorado, including information on food safety, local markets, and food labeling.