Sustainability is a cornerstone issue for Denver and its residents. As we look ahead at a future where climate change will impact every one of us, we want to give a platform to the people and groups leading sustainability efforts in the Mile High City. In this sustainability series, we will discuss the problems, explore the solutions track the efforts and explain how to develop better sustainable practices in daily life.
Over the last decade, urban farming in Denver rapidly expanded, with urban farms spread out across the metro area. Currently, the majority of food consumed in the U.S. comes from large-scale factory farming. Most companies import food from far distances. Since factory farming can feel so abstract for many folks, engaging with urban farms brings our food systems very close to home. Urban farms showcase the benefits of sustainable farming on a local scale: A decrease in emissions, more control over equitable access to healthy food, a boost to the local economy and, often, the promise of better tasting produce.
Check out this roundup of urban farms in Denver and Aurora. Each serves a different purpose, from community gardens, raising livestock, growing food for local nonprofits, children’s programming and more. Their missions range from food justice, sustainable food education, promoting good health and building strong relationships with local food systems.
You’ll find plenty of opportunities to learn, visit and volunteer.
Where: 6825 E Alameda Ave, Denver
The Lowdown: Nestled in Cherry Creek, Ekar Farm is a communal urban farm inspired by Jewish values: Sustainability, food justice, building community and sharing abundance. Their mission involves building community through community farming, food justice education, holiday celebrations and skills-based training. Ekar donates a majority of their produce to community organizations serving food insecure populations.
Visit: Ekar is open to the public for tours and visits during general business hours. They also host several programs a month, from children’s events, justice seminars and more. To volunteer, sign up here.
The Urban Farm
Where: 10200 Smith Rd, Denver
The Lowdown: The Urban Farm (TUF) describes its mission as “[inspiring] excitement for learning through practical work experience in a farm setting while fostering respect, responsibility, curiosity, caring and grit.” TUF’s main programming centers around horses and a community garden. In addition to facilitating a children’s summer camp, TUF also hosts after-school programs and even equestrian classes. Under served youth in Denver have the opportunity to attend programs and summer camp on scholarship.
Visit: General public hours are Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturdays 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. and Sundays 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.. The farm is open for self guided tours; visitors just have to fill out a quick waiver beforehand. If you like horses and hard work, check out volunteer sign ups here.
You can check out TUF’s many programming options here.
Denver Urban Gardens (DUG)
Where: 1031 33rd St. #100, Denver
The Lowdown: Denver Urban Gardens (DUG) is a network of community gardens in Denver designed to create sustainable food-producing gardens. The farm’s philosophy is rooted in empowering community members and equity. Founded in 1985, DUG now supports more than 180 community gardens across the city. DUG specializes in youth education programs, compost training and a garden to cafeteria program. The program supports the creation of school gardens for students to take care of. Once the produce is ready, the students then harvest it for cafeteria use.
The Lowdown: Since 2002, Groundwork Denver has taken a holistic, community-oriented approach to bring sustainable change to Denver’s physical environment through air, climate, energy, food, land, water and youth initiatives. Groundwork Greens stems from the sustainable food program. The 1,800 square-foot hydroponic greenhouse grows over 4,000 pounds of fresh produce each year. Volunteers grow a variety of plants for local farmer’s markets, chefs, restaurants and community members. Volunteers and youth also have the opportunity to learn about hydroponic farming.
Visit: To volunteer with Groundwork Greens or another Groundwork Denver program, visit the sign up page.
Where: 2500 25th St, #200, Denver
The Lowdown: Altius Farms is an aeroponic leafy greens and produce farm. Based in RiNo, it is the highest elevation farm in the U.S. Compared to traditional produce farming, vertical aeroponic farming utilizes 5% of water, 10% of the land and yields 10 times as much produce. Altius, which is Latin for higher, represents both the present and future of farming.
Notably, the farm participates in a Veterans to Farmers program. The program is designed to train veterans in modern agricultural systems, technologies and even business operations to create long-term professional opportunities. Additionally, Altius hosts youth programming and doubles as a venue for special events.
Visit: Altius Farms will soon reopen tours of the greenhouse towers. For more information, you can reach out via email.
Astro Azules Farms
Where: South Denver
The Lowdown: Astro Azules is a brand new working urban farm created by Mile High Urban Farming. Mile High Urban Farming is a BIPOC-owned business specializing in growing herbs, flowers and unique succulents. Astro Azules serves as a new hub for growing food native to the Denver area. Based in South Denver, the urban farm grows produce such as native fruits, vegetables and honey.
Visit: Astro Azules sells their produce at farmers markets all over the city. You can keep track of their farmers market stands on Instagram.
Where: Elyria-Swansea Neighborhood
The Lowdown: Based in Globeville and Elyria-Swansea, Huerta Urbana is an incubator for the neighborhood’s urban farmers in training. As rates of food insecurity grew during the pandemic, Focus Points Family Resource Center sought to address the issue by securing local farming plots. The area lacks grocery stores within a close distance, so Focus Points made sure to secure an area in the center of the community for Huerta Urbana. Thus, families would have the opportunity to grow their own food and have easy access to gathering it. Right now, Huerta Urbana has four greenhouses and 10 raised garden beds for the 2021 season. Huerta Urbana remains a strong, community-based effort towards food justice for the neighborhood.
Gotham Greens (Aurora)
Where: Adjacent to Stanley Marketplace in Aurora
The Lowdown: With nine locations nationwide and one Mountain West farm in Aurora, Gotham Greens works to reduce the amount of time it takes for produce to travel from farm to table. Its sustainable business model remains cost effective and reduces emissions. The Aurora greenhouse utilizes 30,0000 square-feet for hydroponic farming of leafy greens. Greens are grown year-round and distributed locally.
DeLaney Community Farm
Where: 170 S Chambers Rd, Aurora
The Lowdown: Sponsored by Denver Urban Gardens and Project Worthmore, DeLaney Community Farm works to equip refugees with the tools needed to produce healthy food for themselves and their communities. Through Project Worthmore, refugees who enroll in the program receive education and training on sustainable food growing practices and economic resilience. Additionally, they have the opportunity to create lasting relationships with other participants in a safe space during the process of community integration.
Visit: To volunteer at DeLaney Community Farm, read more and sign up here.