With 55-degree mornings becoming more common and breezy blue sky afternoons giving way to longer nights, it is safe to say that fall is here. While there is no shortage of pumpkin-infused beverages or flannel-affiliated activities to remind us that the seasons are changing, a trip to the farmers market on a Sunday morning is hard to beat. However, with the seasons changing, Front Range market-goers may naturally see a shift in the products available to them. Think fewer tomatoes, peaches and figs, but more squash, corn and pumpkins. While the shift for some is exciting, it is intimidating for others.
Thankfully, 303 Magazine was lucky enough to sit down and catch up with one of Denver’s premiere gardening organizations, Denver Urban Gardens, to discuss their recent GatherRound, which showcased in-season offerings from around Colorado. Additionally, we picked their brain on how Denver Urban Garden staff would approach this season’s farmers markets.
For the past 35-plus years, Denver Urban Gardens has stuck to its vision of facilitating a sustainable future where community members are more connected to public land and, more importantly, the food they eat. One of the unique ways Denver Urban Gardens furthers its vision is through its yearly GatherRound, an incredible event showcasing dozens of local food operations and chefs and bringing together the community of gardeners and leaders that make Denver Urban Gardens’ mission possible.
“The theme of the night was cultivating hope, and how gardening spaces can be spacing for doing that,” said Brittany Pimentel, Equity & Food Access Director at Denver Urban Gardens. “Our work is so intersectional, it is like an onion. You keep peeling it back, and you realize that it is attached to this, it is attached to that, and I think [food] is something that unites everybody.”
This year, however, the event looked a bit different. Not only was the 2022 GatherRound held at the Upper Larimer Events space in RINO, which saw around 300 attendees and showcased some of the best in-season ingredients from this year’s harvest, but Denver Urban Gardens also awarded six individual community members who personified the organization’s foundational six pillars.
While these awards were a first for the organization, Pimentel mentioned, “We became a physical nonprofit in ’85, so we have had a lot of time to develop these community partnerships, a standing in the community, and we have been able to garner and earn a lot of trust [over the years], and we don’t take that lightly. So when we can highlight other people’s work that overlaps with ours, we are very eager to do that.”
After discussing this year’s GatherRound, it felt only natural to ask how a Denver Urban Gardens employee would approach a farmers market in the coming weeks. “One of the best things about farmers markets is that they are hyperlocal, so everything that a [farmer] is bringing to the market will be in season. However, I would keep my eye out for winter squashes.” While winter squashes, turnips and spinach might be fantastic options to be on the watch for, Pimentel discussed that farmer’s markets are an incredible opportunity to build a relationship with the farmer. “When do you ever get that consumer and producer vantage point? It is very rare, right? So this is a great opportunity to ask about the farmer’s practices. I cannot underscore how valuable that opportunity is,” she said.
It’s apparent that farmer’s markets should be much more than a monetary transactional endeavor. If the goal was to buy local produce, then turn back and head home, well, that is what big box grocery stores are for, right? These small – seemingly insignificant – conversations about a farmer’s practice, how long they have been in business or why they farm in the first place give customers a perspective into whom they are buying from and whether or not it aligns with their vision and values as a customer — a rare opportunity in the consumer/producer world, as explained by Pimentel.
It should be said, however, that attending a farmers market during the middle of the day and paying a premium for hyperlocal foods is a privilege, not a right, and one that not everyone can afford. So, naturally, it gives credence to the idea that those who can monetarily support farmers and ranchers at farmers markets should also strive to build and foster a connection with them. Farmers depend just as much on us as we do on them for a steady supply of food.
“At the end of the day, community building, connection and belonging are truly at the core of our work. Food is simply the mechanism for that to happen,” Pimentel said.
Denver Urban Gardens is already prepping for its yearly Grow a Garden Program. This program offers those of all income levels to participate in taking a vegetable from seed to table over the course of a growing season. Each kit walks the new gardener through the planting process and even lays out the most efficient way for planting seeds for a successful harvest. Applications will go live on Feb. 1.
For those looking to keep up to date with Denver Urban Gardens whether it be for information regarding their next GatherRound, or looking for more ways to get involved connecting and following the organization’s social media pages are best — Instagram (@denverurbangardens), Facebook (@WeAreDUG). If individuals are looking for more information regarding upcoming events, or information regarding gardening in the Denver Metro Area, add yourself to their email list.