As it celebrates its 25th anniversary, CEO Vanessa Keeley remembers the accomplishments of Growing Gardens and she looks to the future. The organization began in Boulder managing a community garden and the Cultiva Youth Project. Over the years, Growing Gardens expanded to 7 gardens and 3 organic farms in Boulder County, operates a goat dairy, offers educational programs to the community, and runs a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm stand.
Social Venture Partners Boulder County (SVP) is proud to have helped along the way. Close to 15 years ago, Growing Gardens was a participant in SVP’s Catapult Program. Vanessa says “[SVP] mentored us on how to be thoughtful about business practices. This has carried through to today in what we do and our successful business model.” She adds, “Looking back this year has been really rewarding. . .SVP has been one of the things I look back on fondly.”
Growing Gardens’ vision is to connect people with food, and they are proud to work to lessen food insecurity in Boulder County. The food grown at Growing Gardens’ farms go back into the community in several ways: donations, work-trade, or sold at below market rate at their Longmont Farm Stand. Each year, Growing Gardens donates more than 20 thousand pounds of fresh produce to local food banks, and they have donated more than 25 thousand plant-starts to community members. These plant-starts allow the community members to grow a garden of their own at home. The work-trade program provides an opportunity for community members to volunteer 2 hours per week working on the farm in exchange for fresh produce.
Vanessa says as Growing Gardens works and expands, they are thinking about inclusivity and accessibility, and bringing a diverse community of people to farming. They are “listening to the community about how [people] want to be involved.” They have added more weekend programing, Spanish language programing and information, and are partnering with several area groups to more effectively reach out to Latinx, Indigenous, and communities living on low incomes. Growing Gardens is also working to develop a comprehensive support structure for program participants throughout the year to keep people engaged and to answer questions.
One of the major challenges Growing Gardens faces is climate change. Snow and rain are less reliable, and storms are stronger. The recent hailstorms increased labor requirements and decreased the amount of produce available. In order to lower their own carbon footprint and help reduce climate change, Growing Gardens recently installed solar panels on their Boulder farm. They also work to educate the community about what we can all do to protect the environment in our own backyards.
The education programs offered teach our community about sustainable animal husbandry and re-generative gardening practices. Individuals and families can learn about honeybees or goats, gardening, and cooking though-out the year. Some classes are offered in Spanish.
If you would like to get involved with Growing Gardens, they need volunteers to help on the farm. Another option is to attend an upcoming class or event. The weekly farm stand is where you can buy fresh Growing Gardens’ produce and locally sources eggs, meat, and other grocery goods. It is open each Wednesday on the Boulder Farm from 3:30 – 6:30 p.m. until late November. The Harvest Festival on the Boulder Farm will be October 6. It features food trucks, music, and offers pumpkins for sale.
Find out more at growinggardens.org.