By Yesenia Robles
The Denver Post
Bhutanese refugees Chuda Zaudam, left, and Iccha Dhungel tend to the winter crops at Feed Denver as part of the required community service under their resettlement agreement.
An organization in Denver that usually dedicates its time to growing gardens spent the past month cultivating donors to help it win a challenge grant.
Feed Denver is one of eight urban-farming organizations nationwide chasing a carrot dangled by Bonterra, an organic winery, and Growing Power, a Milwaukee nonprofit that promotes sustainable urban agriculture.
To win the matching grant, Feed Denver had four weeks to raise $4,000 from 50 donors. Seven days from the end of the competition, Feed Denver is in second place and has raised $1,335 from 16 donors.
Feed Denver has been pushing out the challenge message using such tools as Facebook, Twitter and online newsletters.
"We're all learning to do fundraising, especially through social networking," said Feed Denver's executive director, Lisa Rogers.
This summer, Feed Denver created two farms, including a fish farm, and 20 jobs. It grew 100 pounds of produce per week and logged more than $500 in sales through five two-hour markets. It also trained 12 children and 350 adults to start urban gardens.
"We're quite proud, actually," Rogers said.
Now, Feed Denver wants to protect those gardens and continue the success through the winter.
Although Colorado can have extreme winters, Rogers said, it's not impossible to keep growing in the winter because Colorado usually continues to get lots of sun.
All the money raised — including the grant money if the group wins it — would help buy materials to cover and insulate gardens, and to train Feed Denver's farmers on winter gardening.
Training farmers is an important part of the group's vision to expand farming in the city.
"Every school wants to have its community garden to use in the school; every hospital wants its own garden too," Rogers said. "But who are the farmers going to be? We need real farmers who can make the best of the garden."
A new piece to that brought eight
Bhutanese refugee Dadi Nirola breaks up clods as Abi Acharya sprays water while they build winter beds at Feed Denver, which grew 100 pounds of produce a week this summer. (Judy DeHaas, The Denver Post)
refugees from Bhutan two months ago to work with Feed Denver's farms.
"Their skills are out working on their fields, and when they're just plopped in a city, it's a whole new world," Rogers said. "They are teaching us a lot of things, and we are teaching them what we know about farming in a city."
The fundraising challenge will distribute $20,000 among winners. The sponsor hopes to spur the organizations to involve their communities in urban farming, through donations and awareness.
"We want to broaden the reach and education so consumers know they, too, can participate to provide good access to good food," said John Tichenor, a group brand director at Bonterra.
The two organizations that raise the most money will get grants of $4,000 and $2,000, respectively. The two organizations that have the most donors will also get grants of $4,000 and $2,000.
Bonterra and Growing Power also have set aside $8,000 that will be used to provide a 50 percent match for donations made in the last two days of the competition, up to $500 per donation.
Yesenia Robles: 303-954-1372 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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