Sprout City Farms is about to break ground on the Mountair Park Community Farm in Lakewood, Colorado. We have been cultivating a one-acre farm at the Denver Green School since 2011, and are ready to replicate our model for sustainable urban food production and community resource building in another neighborhood! This is the next big step in realizing our vision of creating a network of urban farms to support the Denver-metro area.
The site at Mountair Park was chosen in large part due to the surrounding community's vocal desire for improved fresh food access and local food production. Sprout City Farms and the City of Lakewood forged a partnership that would meet these needs by transforming 1.25 acres of Mountair Park into an urban farm that will grow food while engaging the community through educational programs and volunteer opportunities.
A large group of community members is helping guide development of the Mountair Park Community Farm and its programs. Possible food access efforts include farm to cafeteria programs for nearby schools, a donation-based farm stand, free and work shares in the CSA program, and donations to hunger relief organizations. Proposed educational opportunities include programs for local schools, community workshops, and an internship program. The possibilities are endless, but to make all of these community benefit programs a reality, WE FIRST HAVE TO BUILD THE FARM!
Why This Location
Sprout City Farms issued an RFP in late 2013 seeking a partner for our 2014 expansion. Several sites were proposed, but the extensive work that had already been done by the City of Lakewood and the community surrounding Mountair Park regarding food access made this location an excellent fit.
Mountair Park is located in a food desert, meaning that there is limited access to fresh food. The two nearby schools have free and reduced lunch rates of 98%. The community has been united in their desire to bring resources to the area and to improve the health of their neighborhood.
What We Need To Get Started
It costs $25,000 to transform an empty acre into a working farm. Sod has to be removed. The ground needs to be tilled. Fencing, irrigation and a veggie prep station need to be installed. Our farm structures, including tool shed and cold storage shed, need to be built. So much goes into creating the infrastructure that will support the farm for years to come, and this is where we need your help!
Your donation will cover start-up costs at Mountair Park Community Farm including:
- Drip Irrigation System
- Tool Shed
- Cold Storage Shed
- Produce Wash Station
- Field Prep
How Farms Build Connections
Sprout City Farms has watched many meaningful connections grow out of the Denver Green School Community Farm over the past three years. Students experience every step in the journey from seed to fork. Community members come together to learn and share skills related to food growing, cooking and preserving. Future urban farmers gain the knowledge needed to feed communities and grow the local economy. Collaborations between various organizations expand the reach and impact of the farm. The farm has truly become a community gathering place, bringing together people of all ages and backgrounds to connect with one another, with their food, and with the land. The Mountair Park Community Farm will create similar opportunities for a new community to connect and flourish in the coming years.
How We Know It Works
We have been honing and refining our community farm model for three years. Below are some highlights from the 2013 season:
- The DGS Community Farm grew 11,000 pounds of produce.
- We engaged the community and taught wealth-building skills related to food production to over 450 people through volunteer and educational opportunities.
- We hosted 5 interns on the farm, ranging in age from high school to recent college graduate.
- 815 students participated in educational programming on the farm, and SCF worked to create curriculum that would connect the farm to classroom units.
- Our food reached over 1,000 families through programs that met every level of need.
- 1,000 pounds of food was donated to relief programs that support low-income families.
- 640 pounds of SCF produce was served in the DGS cafeteria over 7 out of 9 months of the school year.
- 1,200 pounds of food was distributed through our donation-based farm stand.
- Our CSA program grew from 40 families in 2011 to 76 families in 2013. 20% of CSA shares are designated as free or work shares, increasing accessibility to all.
- The farm generated $30,000 in proceeds, 100% of which were reinvested, successfully covering the cost of farm operations and management.
- We raised funds through grants, events, and donations enabling us to meet our community goals for food access and educational programming.
It will take three years to transform the land at Mountair Park into a similarly self-sustaining farm. This year we expect to grow about 6,000 pounds of food, but by 2016 the harvest will grow to 10,000-12,000 pounds. At those full production levels, we will be able to fully fund farm operations, while still meeting our goals for providing food access to the local community. Once we achieve a sustainable production level for farm operations, our only ongoing fundraising needs will be for community-benefit programs.
Risks and challenges
Farming, in urban and rural areas, comes with inherent risks including flood, drought, pest damage, and other variables that affect crop yield. Sprout City Farms strives to build our farms to be as resilient as possible. We plant a diverse crop so that if one variety fails, we do not lose everything. We design our rows and pathways to mitigate damage from heavy rain runoff. We use drip irrigation, conserving water while ensuring adequate hydration. We practice organic growing methods, choose hardy plant varieties that are suitable for the CO climate, and pride ourselves on being good stewards of the land so that it will provide bountifully.
Sprout City Farms also engages the community as caretakers and champions of our farms. Last summer when floods struck Denver, the community rallied and saved much of the harvest, picking almost a ton of produce in two days. As we begin work at Mountair Park, the community is already strategizing ways they can join together to prevent possible risks like vandalism that can adversely impact urban farms. Growing community pride is a big part of our strategy for being prepared to overcome obstacles and challenges.
Although it is never possible to predict every potential pitfall, Sprout City Farms staff and Board of Directors have decades of combined farming and small business experience that provide a solid foundation for weathering challenges. We have confidence in our community farming model and our ability to replicate it at Mountair Park and beyond!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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