"Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond."
- Robin wall Kimmerer
The Growing Project, an evolving perennial, has adapted and transformed through many growing cycles. Our core values honor regeneration and transformative relationships, and to follow these principles, we must listen and react. We continue to grow, decompose, and reemerge in response to the needs of our community. Each season we plant seeds saved from over a decade of work in companion with each year's changes. Learn about our origin and read a summary of our past programs below.
PROGRAMS THROUGH THE SEASONS
The Educational Garden was the base location for much of our programming, providing weekly volunteer sessions where attendees could exchange their time working for harvested produce, community meals cooked on site using fresh picked veggies, and donations of surplus through free market stands. This garden was also space for events, workshops, field trips, service learning, and volunteer potlucks.
Our UFO gardens (which stood for Urban Foods Outreach) were installed in cooperation with Fort Collins Housing Catalyst, Habitat for Humanity, The Murphy Center for Hope, and mobile home parks to help feed and teach the importance of growing while feeding ourselves sustainably. Interns and knowledgable volunteers joined garden hosts to supply seeds, plant starts, and offer help weeding, watering, and harvesting, with extra produce being donated to The Food Bank of Larimer County.
The Garden Time project was a horticulture therapy based program connecting youth of all ages to hands-on gardening experiences, working with soil, learning about native plants, and participating in donation-based farmers markets set up through The Boys and Girls Club and The Family Center/La Familia. Other activities include nature walks, plant and insect identification, and integrating art in the garden.
The Teens for Food Justice initiative was set up to provide teens aged 13-17 from The Center for Family Outreach with work at the Educational Garden, taking cooking classes, going on field trips, learning about local food insecurity, participating in horticultural therapy sessions, and developing their own food related community service projects. Upon completion of the program, in addition to other requirements, the teen’s record was cleared and they received a small stipend.
The Young Farmers Training Program provided part-time summer jobs and hands-on educational opportunities for teens aged 15-17 where they helped cook farm breakfasts for each other using fresh eggs along with veggies and tea from the educational garden, “adopting” rows to observe and journal changes in plants throughout the season, and taking field trips to Laughing Buck Farm and Storybook Flower Farm to learn about animal husbandry and flower production.
Nature Rides connected youth from The Boys and Girls Club, The Family Center/La Familia, and The FoCo Cafe Breakfast program to natural areas in North West Fort Collins for activities related to the watershed and local ecology. Additionally there was safety training in connection with The Fort Collins Bike Co-op to help obtain bikes for participants.
TGP University workshops served to expand the depth of agricultural and culinary education taught by local experts and enthusiasts on topics like foraging, harvest preservation, seed saving, perennial vegetables, earthen construction, growing season extension, and composting.
Horticulture Therapy work takes place at the FoCo Commons garden site in connection with disabled adults from Elderhaus and Shine LLC helping attendees improve language skills, socialization, cognitive abilities, coordination, and balance while learning better problem solving skills.
The FoCo Commons Garden is our main growing space located next to and in partnership with the FoCo Café. Harvests from the garden supplement and help determine the menu for the Café and the space provides meaningful volunteer opportunities for people to earn meal tokens, as well as educational opportunities for the summer breakfast program and the public.
One day in 2008, during a spontaneous conversation about the need for local food gardens in Fort Collins, a group of friends planted the seed of a big idea:
Can local, sustainable, community agriculture promote increased food security, poverty relief, and environmental justice?
Over the next few weeks, conversations grew into meetings that sprouted other ideas: CSAs for low-income families, multiple community gardens, an education center with food preservation classes, shared gardening tools and seeds, kids’ summer programs in agriculture, and so on. More ideas emerged at each subsequent meeting and finally coalesced into a formal organization - The Growing Project (TGP). In February 2009, TGP became a 501(c)3 nonprofit.
Much of what drove that initial conversation was a desire to increase awareness of how alienated most city-dwellers have become from the people who grow our food and the places our food is grown...an awareness of how dependent we have become on the corporate food industry to fulfill our most basic need to eat. Less than 1% of people in the United States claim farming as their primary occupation, while the rest of us have over the last 60+ years lost more and more knowledge about growing, preparing, and preserving our own food. TGP wants to take back this knowledge and spread that seed into every bit of unused or potentially re-purposed bit of land that we can find.
Plants cannot grow without roots and neither can culture. The roots of a cooperative and place-based community lie at the bottom of the social structure with the least mobile population, the aged and the poor. This population will prove to be our strongest asset in carrying on the knowledge needed to build a solid local food system and thriving local economy. Importing food security is not our only option! It is already here, in low-income neighborhoods, at the food bank, in seed packets, in the soil, on the street, in the suburbs and in the inner city. We need only to water it, nurture it, care for it. The harvest will come, though if we don't tend to these issues today, we are not likely to see that harvest in our generation or the next....
Food security is a global issue and a growing concern in Larimer County. The Growing Project addresses this important issue by making fresh, nourishing, regional food more accessible to all through urban agriculture and education. The Growing Project accomplishes this through co-creating community gardens that increase the supply of fresh local produce; educational programs that provide knowledge and skills in community-building, nutrition, sustainable agriculture, permaculture, and self-sufficiency; and advocacy efforts that promote community access to food grown locally. Food justice for all!
To learn more about the issues surrounding the local food paradox, food security, and resistance education visit the food. people. justice. page.