GreenLeaf | About
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Mission & History

Mission

 

We are powerful youth leaders growing together – cultivating community and food justice through urban agriculture.

 

History

 

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!

Community & Farm

GreenLeaf grows in an area of Denver that is similar to hundreds of urban neighborhoods across the United States, where people (primarily people of color) live in the hearts of cities without access to nutritious, affordable, high quality produce. The USDA estimates that 23.5 million people across the US live in food deserts, and that more than half of those people (approximately 13.5 million) are low-income. (For more information on food deserts: Follow this link.)


GreenLeaf youth know first-hand what it means to live in a food desert without access to healthy food options. Throughout our history, we have primarily worked with students of color, including many from immigrant families. Nearly all of our crew members over the years have qualified for free and reduced lunch at school. Youth of color and youth living in poverty are most affected by a lack of food choices, leading to health disparities related to these oppressions. The Food Trust identified the following N.E. Denver neighborhoods where people have low income and insufficient access to supermarkets: Five Points, Cole, Clayton, Park Hill, Elyria-Swansea, Globeville, and Montbello. These neighborhoods are home to the GreenLeaf youth.


Produce prices in inner city supermarkets have been found to be higher than those in suburban areas. There are very few grocery stores in the communities where GreenLeaf works, and prices in these stores often put healthy food out of reach for local residents. From informal surveys conducted by the GreenLeaf youth as they canvass these communities, and from the youth who live in them, we know that most families must leave the neighborhood if they wish to purchase fresh produce. Many residents must travel several miles or take multiple buses to access the nearest markets.


Denver’s urban neighborhoods lack sustainable infrastructure for the production and distribution of affordable, fresh food. Fast food, liquor stores, and corner stores are currently the primary sources of food in the neighborhoods where our youth and their families live.


We want to change that.


Each summer we average about 10 weekly customers at our affordable, donation-based Farm Stand, in addition to 9 CSA member families. Based on this, we estimate that we impact at least 518 community members every year who get fresh, low-cost fruits and vegetables from GreenLeaf. Though we have not found a way to measure the exact number of people (such as the family and friends of youth crew members, customers, and CSA members) who also gain access to fresh produce through GreenLeaf, we believe our impact to be significant and growing.


GreenLeaf’s current farm is a 6,000 square foot plot of land at the Denver Sustainability Park (or “SPark”), where we share space with Produce Denver and Granata Farms as part of the Urban Farmers Collaborative. At the SPark, GreenLeaf youth learn how to farm in raised beds, care for fruit trees, manage drip irrigation and composting systems, host community events, and devise justice-oriented food distribution methods. Our youth run a Farm Stand on site every Saturday morning from July through October, as well as harvest pickups for shareholders in our CSA program.

GreenLeaf is supported by the Chinook Fund

GreenLeaf is supported by the Chinook Fund