Magazine / People

Nonprofit builds urban farms in Denver

Lisa Rogers and urban farm workers

Alumna Lisa Rogers founded Feed Denver, a nonprofit dedicated to setting up small urban farms around the city. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

From community-supported agriculture and farm-to-table restaurants to bestselling books by Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver, fresh, local food is all the rage in culinary America.

The problem, says Lisa Rogers, is that fresh and local isn’t as easy to come by as people think. All looks good at Whole Foods and the local farmers’ markets, but factor in conventional supermarkets and the majority of restaurants, and we still live in an economy in which less than 0.1 percent of the food eaten by Coloradans is grown in Colorado.

Rogers (MBA ’99), who founded the north Denver coffeehouse Common Grounds in 1992, first became aware of the issue while working as a consultant for other restaurants and small businesses.

“One of the many things I was doing for restaurants was sourcing local supplies and foods and that sort of thing, and it was during that time that the ‘all restaurants want to be local’ fad started,” she says. “Every farm I called was so overwhelmed — they couldn’t get back to me, they really couldn’t promise anything, they had so many clients they could barely keep up with them.

“I realized that even though there were all these restaurants opening saying they get local, they really can’t be. We do not produce the food that we need in Colorado, even for restaurants.”

Enlightened and inspired, Rogers began teaching herself about urban farming and how to grow food locally on a smaller scale. In 2008 she started Feed Denver: Urban Farms & Markets, a nonprofit dedicated to setting up small urban farms around the city. The organization opened its first farm, located in the Stapleton neighborhood, in 2009, followed by a parking lot farm in north Denver.

At its core, the nonprofit is about feeding people — something Rogers is using her business background to do.

“If we can create a small farm that looks like a small business — like a coffeehouse with 20 employees that supports four to five families—that will be good,” Rogers says. “That’s what Feed Denver is about.”

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One Comment

  1. barbara moore says:

    We have a non profit in Lakewood and have two farms to teach,model and grow organic produce. We have a site at 4322 Xenon Street in Wheat Ridge and 1875 Wadsworth Blvd in Lakewood. We need volunteers who want to learn how to plant, harvest, do organic pest mitigation and soil amending. We will be having two farm stands and need volunteers to help when they are open. We will offer educational classes on organic growing during farm stand time and will offer csa shares. http://www.harvestmountain.weebly.com and facebook: harvest mountain farm gardens. Donations accepted on web site.

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