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University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus

University of Colorado Denver, Newsroom

News Release

Innovative Program Transforms Urban Schoolyards into Viable Agriculture Land Serving the School and the Local Community


DPS Partners with Colorado Organic Producers Association (COPA) and University of Colorado Denver (UCD) to launch a pilot urban agriculture program

DENVER (April 30, 2010) - A year of project planning and preparation came to reality today as McGlone Elementary held a special kind of groundbreaking ceremony.  Not only is a Denver Public Schools elementary school receiving a renovated schoolyard called a learning landscape, but through a partnership with local non-profit farmers and UCD, McGlone will be breaking ground and building an Urban Farm!

Over the last 10 months, Denver Public Schools, UCD and COPA (the voice of organic agriculture in Colorado) have been working together to launch a first ever pilot urban agriculture program at McGlone Elementary and Bradley Elementary.  This program will develop a unique small-scale farm that develops excess DPS land into Production urban farms that:

  • Reduces water use and DPS maintenance
  • Provides locally grown organic foods through community-based distribution methods
  • Provides a venue for urban farming education to DPS students
  • Promotes sustainable practices

McGlone and Bradley elementary schools are the first two DPS schools that will be participating in this exciting pilot program.

A part of COPA’s mission is to preserve land for organic agriculture and to support and build new farmers thereby producing locally grown, organic crops that can support the economy and the farming community.

“The Urban Farm program is a perfect concept to support the Districts sustainability goals. The program provides a fun way to educate our children, reduce water usage through a viable alternative to sod, and facilitates less maintenance expense; all which lowers operating cost”, said Trena A. Deane, DPS Executive Director of Facility Management. “This program will also create a one-of-a kind effort in Denver and perhaps the nation.”

COPA developed a selection process for the DPS farmers and will mentor them through their first couple of years of farming. This mentorship will help local farmers with all aspects of production agriculture, including growing, business aspects, marketing, and certification.

Troy Garner, DPS Customer Relations and Special Programs Manager says, “Connecting farmers to each other and to the community in which they grow makes this program a natural fit and partnership to support the DPS community and the mission of COPA.”

The produce grown at the school farms will be sold both to the school cafeterias (thereby providing fresh low cost organic produce) and at the local farmers markets.

As part of the Learning Landscape to be built at McGlone and Bradley, the schools will also have a school vegetable garden that will be part of the school and community gardening partnership. The natural fit between Learning Landscapes (which are much more than play), the school gardens, and the Urban Farms, provides natural habitat areas that rejuvenate entire school campuses, having a dramatic effect on children and community behavioral patterns.

Professor Lois Brink of UCD adds, “These types of environments have been shown to provide positive effects on a child’s attitude toward fresh fruits and vegetables.”

As additional support to the urban agriculture movement DPS has been awarded a Kellogg grant that will provide necessary funding to build outdoor learning labs and greenhouses at McGlone and Bradley. The greenhouses will extend the growing season for children who will be able to sell their produce to the cafeterias as part of the school lunch and a new DPS “Garden to Cafeteria” incentive.

“Gardens and greenhouses provide a unique opportunity for our students to learn about many aspects of agriculture and the importance of producing locally-grown produce. Students will be learning from experienced garden and farming leaders,” said DPS Chief Operating Officer David Suppes.

“Denver Public School’s Food and Nutrition Services strives to provide healthy food and nutrition education so all students will have the opportunity for success in the classroom, in their daily lives and to set the foundation for healthy lifestyles as they grow and mature, Said Leo Lesh with DPS.   “School gardens to cafeteria programs influence students on many levels, increasing their knowledge and awareness about food sources, nutrition and eating.  Eating locally sourced products becomes a part of the educational framework that turns students on to healthier food options.  A connection with the source of their food also deepens their appreciation for food and agriculture and an enjoyment of fresh, wholesome foods that they will pass on to their families” planning sets them on a course for a lifetime of healthy decision-making when it comes to choosing food for themselves and their families.”

Jim Faes, DPS Director of Sustainability hopes this one-of-kind program will increase student knowledge of sustainable practices, contribute to low cost water saving options, and provide healthy environments and organic food options to our children and the DPS community.

About the Colorado Organic Producer’s Association

A part of COPA’s mission is to preserve land for organic agriculture and to support and build new farmers.  The Learning Landscape project is a “perfect storm” for creating a first-of-its-kind effort in Denver and perhaps as a model for the nation.  COPA committed to selecting the farmers and mentoring them through their first couple of years of farming.  COPA will provide a range of mentoring opportunities based on their needs. We will call upon COPA’s seasoned members to help them with all aspects of production agriculture, including growing, business aspects, marketing, and certification.

About University of Colorado Denver’s College of Architecture and Planning

The College of Architecture and Planning is among the largest colleges of architecture and related design and planning disciplines in the U.S. Located on the University of Colorado Denver’s downtown campus and the University of Colorado-Boulder, CAP brings together faculty, students and practitioners who share common pursuits in communities of interest including: emerging practices in design, sustainable urbanism, the creation of healthy environments and the preservation of cultural heritage. CAP is one of 13 schools and colleges at UC Denver. The University offers more than 100 degrees and serves more than 28,000 students in metro Denver and online. For additional news and information, please visit the UC Denver newsroom.


Contact: Jacque Montgomery, 303.928.9093,