DENVER – The corn is high and the collards full and dark green at Sun Valley Grow Farm, but the star attraction at Friday’s food stand are hot peppers needed for many African and Asian recipes.
This is the first year Sun Valley neighbors in Denver have been able to share in the harvest of kale, beans, carrots, cucumbers and more.
Brien Darby, urban food programs manager at the Denver Botanic Gardens, says the one-acre farm isn’t just providing access to healthy produce with a much higher nutrient density than food shipped cross country.
“It’s really more about empowerment, and allowing for food to be grown in a community where maybe in the past that was prohibited,” she states. “And we want to make sure that people know that this is a space where you can grow food that is ethnically important to you.”
Sun Valley, just southwest of Denver’s business district, is the poorest census tract in Colorado. It’s also one of the most diverse, a place many immigrant and refugee families call home.
The urban farm is part of a larger redevelopment effort by the Denver Housing Authority, which will create additional mixed-income housing units, a much-needed upgrade from the 60-year-old public housing complex, and retail space.
Darby says the farm itself is open to all residents, and many have gotten their hands dirty planting through to harvest.
The redevelopment plans also include making healthy foods accessible year-round by establishing a neighborhood-operated grocery store.
“But they’re also doing as much job creation and job training as possible,” she points out. “So one of the long-term goals of the Sun Valley Grow Farm is that we will be able to turn over the management of it to somebody in the neighborhood.”
Community members can enroll in beginner farmer classes at the Denver Botanic Gardens’ Colorado State University Extension.
Darby says the farm will be the classroom, where residents can grow foods not always offered on supermarket shelves as they hone their skills.