Inside the offices of Feed Denver the quiet minds are diligently working towards building a stronger more efficient operation. The process may be coming slowly but so much has been done already to improve the lives of those in the communities they interact with. I have not been at Feed Denver long but it didn’t take long to figure out that a non-profit takes a lot of dedicated minds and hands. This organization thrives on educating in this time of crisis where food needs to be made a priority. Spending the last year in Italy, I have been able to vastly improve my intake of fruits, vegetables and fresh products because of skilled farmers and the markets held weekly. I see the same faces of hardworking farmers who take the time out to engage with customers. Some of their produce is so fresh that it still has the grains of dirt on them from the field, not what you find in the food stores; the pre-washed and packaged food that has so many additives and preservatives, labeled organic and whatever else they think off to make you think you’re eating healthy. At markets you’re given the opportunity to interact with farmers and to develop a relationship.
Walking into Feed Denver’s hoop house today, it was such an overwhelming feeling to see firsthand what little a space can produce over time a short amount of time. The greens were flourishing; they looked so full of life, vibrant, healthy and lush. Those found in the store are nice but could not compare to these. What makes it so much better is that it’s an unforgettable learning experience that I will be able to share with others. This hoop house is just a small portion of what is being done within Feed Denver. There are other projects in the developing stages like a new location at West 44th Avenue and Vallejo Street, but any organization depends on financial stability; without it an operation’s plans are put off and it sadly ceases to survive. Feed Denver is an organization that is dedicated but relies heavily on volunteers and sponsors and it is facing its fair share of complications.
This is where Feed Denver’s not so quiet minds come into play, sending emails, making calls and attending events that will put the word out about not only the need to learn how to feed themselves but to commit themselves to developing communities that will be able to provide healthy food. Most people only see the end result and don’t fully appreciate the time and effort put into these projects. As it is the beginning of spring and seeds have been planted, the outlook is positive. Communicating with others about developing initiatives is a day to day work load. Phone calls may pave the way but it will require meetings, classes, money, paperwork etc. to get the tasks completed.
I would hope that people come to the realization that they cannot fully depend on large corporations to be responsible for their food supply. When you start to grow a garden, realize that it’s simply the same process a non-profit may go through to plant its mission - hard work. So if you can, take the time out to learn about this work and help. A few essential basic seeds are all one needs to start to feed themselves. Seeds are affordable and the experience of learning to grow is an invaluable life tool. So what if some wilt or die, at the end of the day when you pick that tomato or pepper it will be one of the most rewarding experiences to know that you grew it. What’s even more important is that you don’t have to question what you’re putting in your body. Take control of your own and your family’s health and well being. Watch a seed grow, involve your family and reap the benefits. Feed Denver is looking forward to sharing this experience with anyone who wants to be a part of it this spring season.
Little did I know that the ladies at Feed Denver often have a casual morning coffee ritual. Now, I am not a big coffee drinker but I was open to sharing the experience because like Lisa said, it’s Food Culture. The coffee is a Bosnian tradition. I saw sage twigs lingering around in a dish and I thought it had no real purpose but it actually does. It was tied in a bundle with string and burnt so that the smoky sweet aroma would be released into the air. Its purpose is to cleanse, give blessing and to get rid of bad energy. A good amount of ground coffee was mixed with hot water in a petite silver pitcher. It was then spooned into four tiny porcelain teacups, served on a silver antique plate with sugar cubes in a dish with a floral edged design, all matching the pitcher.
Basically the goal is to drink the coffee slowly until you’ve sipped all of the liquid and only the coffee grounds remain. I thought since I took a sensory analysis class that it would be great to put it to use and see if I could identify any aromas since coffee has so many sensory properties. I honestly still can’t identify a lot of characteristics but it’s nice to have the knowledge to be able to speak about it to others. It in turn evokes conversation about one’s own sensory abilities. I managed to identify nuttiness and burnt butter. On the first sip, of course, my face puckered up since no sugar is allowed and if you must (and that is a must!) have sugar you’re allowed to dip a sugar cube in the coffee and suck on it. While you’re dipping it in the coffee notice how quickly the liquid shoots up the sugar cube. Normally I need sugar and milk but surprisingly when the coffee began to cool the flavor softened and it was easier to drink. When the liquid was gone, the cup was then turned over on the plate and allowed to drain out.
There really is no purpose to it but it’s simply used as a conversational piece and you talk about what you think has meaning in the coffee grounds images. You’re not allowed to read your own cup the first time around though. It was interesting and funny to hear the type of images you can find in coffee grounds left in a cup. It was anywhere from bee hives, ghost mountains, elephants, a perfect square, legs, a groundhog and a piercing eye. Your mind is supposed to run free. It’s like looking up into the sky and finding little animals shapes in the fluffy clouds.
Culture is so diverse and communication at the table is always left for interpretation especially when different cultures are involved. Everyone places meaning on food, good or bad, but coffee represents such a broader social web. It can be found in not only homes but almost everywhere you go and can be consumed at any time of the day. In turn the coffee grounds have a gardening benefit and so Feed Denver uses it as a compost component and nothing goes to waste. Finally sharing an experience with others is a way to understand their heritage and a good way to get ideas flowing.
Jim Gibson, a mushroom enthusiast and native Coloradan loves mushrooms and knows quite a bit about the earthy fungus we enjoy. What many persons don’t know including me is that they provide much more than just being an addition to a meal. In a short conversation with Jim we discussed the importance of mushrooms and what I learned was enlightening. What we see above ground is evidence of a small portion of the organism. Most of the action occurs underground, out of sight and out of mind for us. Below is the soil food-web of the mushrooms where decomposition happens: the gathering of water; where medicine and food for other soil organisms occur; which encourages healthy soil. Mushrooms live symbiotically with other plants in their growing area. Depending on the type of species, mushrooms provide medicinal properties that include antibacterial, antiviral, and antitumor, anticancer properties. They increase bioavailability of nutrient proteins, vitamins and minerals and for example, shitake is known to be high in Vitamin B.
It is Jim’s hope that the growing of mushrooms will be increased in the Denver area. Meanwhile he wants to continue to engage those willing to learn and thus continue the promotion of their qualities. Some mushrooms are relatively easy to grow according to Jim but once an environment is selected they should be introduced to a strict gardening regime and the correct conditions must be provided in order for them to grow. Yet again mushrooms, depending on the species can be grown by using spores, spawn or by using mushrooms and will take an average of two to three months to reach maturity. According to Jim, he wants us to understand the multiple benefits of this lovely fungus family. Their growth should be encouraged, as beneath our feet is their environment. This is where “mycelium” - simply put this is where they absorb nutrients - occurs and the plant progresses. Even if you don’t see a mushroom growing in your garden apparently your garden will still reap benefits but there are things that must be done to ensure its life.
Soil must not be rowed or tilled and basically Jim says don’t put anything in your soil that you won’t put in a glass of water to drink. That’s a positive and unforgettable way to think about your soil. Such products like pesticides that big companies say we should use because it does this and that will only end up killing your soil because they are often harmful and it ultimately affects the ecosystem. I think we should do whatever it takes to protect what we have and our gardens are a great place to start. If you’re not one to garden because you don’t have the time or skills, local farm markets are an affordable option (although growing your own food is better and cheaper) where you can find mushrooms. It will give you the chance to talk to the farmer and gain insight on how they are grown and maybe even obtain a few recipes or ideas.
On speaking about Feed Denver and other organizations who are taking the step forward to educate and train, Jim is excited about their development and believes they provide a real opportunity to build communities and get them in touch to share, grow and learn. Not only that but they give insight to the things that are becoming important in Denver. He appreciates their existence. Jim has an upcoming class about Mushrooms for Health: Food, Medicine and Soil on April 9th, 2011 so if anyone is interested in starting their own mushroom venture please feel free to visit Feed Denver’s classes and events page to register. It will be informative and a class not to miss because this is where he will be able to share recipes and other ideas with you.
It is my pleasure to write blog articles as a part of my Internship with Feed Denver. My name is Tiffany and I attend the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy studying Food Culture and Communications. I came to Feed Denver to expand my knowledge and appreciation of agriculture and to learn about the emphasis that is being placed on local food supply; to understand the fundamentals of a non-profit organization and its essential role in providing stability and education to those in need. I believe that communication is essential to educating communities about the severity of food supply and learning as much as you can from others is the way to go.
To watch plants grow is a joy but to be a part of it is even better. It’s a continuous cycle in the growing of Feed Denver’s hoop house. Before spring began the raised beds were prepared the refugees and Ariel, the Director of Production sorted through the seeds and made the final spring selection. So, finally spring is here and planting has begun in the hoop house. Not being one who really knows how to farm it is inspiring to watch the woman of Feed Denver be motivated and work towards future goals of educating communities. There are a number of classes scheduled for this spring season and at the symposium on March 12th, 2011 was a great pre-view for what is being offered. If you missed it, there will be will future classes (please visit the classes and events page). There is so much to be learned and it gives one a chance to share and talk to others who may face the same challenges and give insight to growing techniques that are helpful.
As a student studying Food Culture, Denver offers its own unique agricultural playing field. On another note, although I have yet to explore other farms of Denver, it is great to be able to experience the locality of produce in a Restaurant. On a recent visit to Fuel, (a popular restaurant in the River North Downtown area is known as one of the best and offers seasonal menus) it was a nice change to have honey glazed turnips that were grown locally as a side dish instead of fries. The baby turnips were tender, sweet and the roasting complimented the earthy aroma. Fuel who is now looking to have their own small garden, is communicating with Feed Denver to develop this idea so patrons experience what it’s like to eat healthy fresh food that may inspire others to grow. It is a great start to the spring season and I look forward to what the gardens will offer to communities.