Denver Urban Gardens offers the seeds and training low-income Denverites need to grow their own food

Carrots from Paul Heitzenrater and John Farnam's garden in their Montclair backyard, Oct. 12, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Carrots from Paul Heitzenrater and John Farnam's garden in their Montclair backyard, Oct. 12, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Donna Bryson. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

This week’s warm weather might be turning your thoughts to turning soil.

Brittany Pimentel, the horticulture program coordinator for Denver Urban Gardens, is ahead of you. She’s already received more than 200 applications for her nonprofit’s Grow a Garden program, which provides seeds, seedlings and training to low-income Denverites. She hopes to have more than 1,700 individuals and groups signed up by the time the application period closes at the end of January.

Those who register and meet income guidelines can get their seeds in March and seedlings in May at 17 distribution centers located across metro Denver that include Metro Caring, the Anythink library in Commerce City and the Athmar rec center.

Help with the on-line application and in some cases paper application forms can also be found at the distribution centers. The centers will also be the classrooms for a gardening workshop during seed distribution. DUG, which works to build food security in metro Denver, offers other workshops throughout the year to Grow a Garden participants.

“There’s a lot of different barriers for why people don’t grow their own food,” Pimentel said. “We’re trying to remove as many of those as possible.”

At its height Grow a Garden, which has been around in some form since 1997, had 3,000 annual participants, Pimentel said. That has shrunk since the city stopped funding the program in 2017. Just over 1,400 people took part last year, including seniors on fixed incomes and others who depend on the program.

“There are single mothers who write to me that it’s the only way they can put fresh food on the table,” Pimentel said.

DUG has added the income guidelines to a program that was once open and free to all. DUG has also implemented application fees of $5 for individuals and $15 for groups — charges that can be waived if they are a hardship for applicants. Proceeds from DUG’s two annual plant sales also support Grow a Garden, which cost about $30,000 to run last year, Pimentel said. Seed companies have donated seeds. Last year, DUG found a private sponsor in LÄRABAR.

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