We are powerful youth leaders growing together – cultivating community and food justice through urban agriculture.
GreenLeaf was founded in 2008 by Leah Bry, whose community organizing experience led her to explore the powerful intersection of youth leadership and food justice. Our first pilot program took place in 2009 in partnership with CityWild and Denver Urban Gardens. In 2010, we transformed a vacant lot in Denver’s Cole neighborhood into our first farm: an urban oasis that our youth crew named Mini Eden/Many Eatin’. GreenLeaf’s youth and volunteers grew and distributed 1,000 pounds of healthy, affordable produce in this first year. In 2011, the youth crew decided to hire more members and became a year-round after school and eight-week summer job. That same year, GreenLeaf launched our second farm at the Sustainability Park (or “SPark”) at 25th and Lawrence, which marked the beginning of an exciting new chapter for our growing organization.
After several years of successful programming, the youth and board decided to hire two former (graduated) youth interns to become paid “Menterns” (mentor/interns) for the youth in fall 2013. These menterns take on greater leadership roles, facilitating programming and managing logistics in partnership with the Executive Director. This reflects an important shift in staffing, and a major milestone in our efforts to achieve our mission: instead of recruiting from outside the community, this is now a paid position for which we recruit from among graduated youth. In another major transition, we invited Cody Meinhardt to become our new Executive Director in December 2013.
2014 marked the beginning of our most challenging period of transition yet: facing the loss of land. In spring 2014 the owner of the land we called Mini Eden/Many Eatin’ decided to sell, and the new owners chose to develop the site. After a heartfelt closing ceremony in April 2014, GreenLeaf said goodbye to our first farm. This experience inspired us to redouble our efforts at the SPark, which became our sole site for production and distribution, growing more intensively and strategically in order to maintain our yields in 2014. After the close of the amazing 2014 growing season, we learned that the SPark was also being sold off to make room for a new housing development. We must vacate the SPark — our home for the last five seasons — by the end of November 2015.
As we search for new land on which to build our new farm home, we are confident that we will find the perfect space to allow us to continue our powerful, transformative programming. We are excited to build upon these incredible successes: Since our pilot program, we have worked with over 50 youth from all around Denver, over 25% of whom have participated for over a year. Many crew members stay with GreenLeaf for their entire high school career. Our youth have grown and harvested over 10,000 pounds of produce over the years, donating over 15% to hunger-relief agencies and selling 50% at sliding scale prices to residents in Denver’s food deserts.
We cannot wait to see what’s next for GreenLeaf!