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Denver Cuts Out Its Free Seed Program

July 16, 2016
Growhaus - Denver Urban Garden in Swansea neighborhood of Denver.

Growhaus – Denver Urban Garden in Swansea neighborhood of Denver.

In line with Denver’s addiction to privatizing as much public property as possible, of gentrifying the place, the city is cutting its annual program to give free seeds for vegetable gardens. It is only a measly $40,000 of a $1.8 billion budget for this year. The program has been administered since 1997 through Denver Urban Gardens.

But then privatization and unrestrained housing development, far more than urban gardening – has been the special contribution of our last two mayors – Hickenlooper and Hancock along with its (until recently) brain-dead city council.

Not only is the free seed program being cut, but each year the space available for urban gardeners is decreasing as land is being gobbled up by local and national developers – those piranhas of urban America. Housing prices and rentals are going through the roof, displacing all but the most prosperous, pushing poor, working class, middle class people east to Aurora, north to Thorton, or more and more out-of-state. Denver’s recent history was recently featured in an article in the British newspaper, The Guardian. The headline reads “White Privilege and Gentrification in America’s ‘Favorite City’ showing the city in a far less favorable light than its tourism bureau would like.

With this in mind Marie Edgar and I have written the following letter to the editor sent to two local media outlets, which we’ll also submit to our councilman Raphael Espinoza . If you want to add your name to this (for Denver residents only unfortunately) contact one of us; we’ll add your name to the letter below… Or write your own and if you do (would appreciate getting a copy):

July 16, 2016

Rafael Espinoza, Denver City Council, District One

Dear Rafael,

We are dismayed to learn that the City of Denver is no longer funding Denver Urban Garden’s Free Seeds and Seedlings program. Gardening is a healthy and productive interest in many neighborhoods of Northwest Denver.

Community Gardening is a way to build relationships that carry over into positive actions on behalf of all, across diverse populations. Denver has a long tradition in this respect including our Northside (now referred to as Highlands).

A community garden pioneer of the Free Seeds and Seedling Program, Jim Fowler – the original owner of what is today called The Lumber Baron on 37th and Alcott – was among those who spearheaded the free seed program.

We expect that eliminating the $40,000 that supported DUG’s program
will discourage our lower-income neighbors from planting in 2017 and will offer less
support to groups who choose to garden together.

How can we help the City to do an about-face, and increase the funding instead, in order to strengthen the fabrics of Denver’s neighborhoods?


Marie Edgar

Rob Prince

12 Comments leave one →
  1. July 16, 2016 4:46 pm

    happy to sign this – Alan Gilbert, Professor, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, Denver, CO 80210

  2. Carol Kreck permalink
    July 16, 2016 5:24 pm

    Please add my name.

  3. Linda Bevard permalink
    July 16, 2016 6:20 pm

    Me too, please.
    Linda Bevard, Berkeley Park

    • July 16, 2016 6:21 pm

      thanks – you, carol and alan are “in”
      will keep you all posted as the numbers grow

  4. Christopher Kendall permalink
    July 16, 2016 9:31 pm

    Rob, please add my name as well.

  5. Peggy Carey permalink
    July 17, 2016 8:09 am

    Thanks for the inspiration to write my own letter as I live in Lakewood

  6. Jeff Buck permalink
    July 17, 2016 11:21 am

    Hi Rob, please add my name too.

  7. July 18, 2016 8:27 am

    Excellent read, Prof. Prince! I like the article in the link – some great food for thought. It’s unfortunate that we are pushing out so many people out of their homes. Maybe the bubble will burst one day and we’ll have so many nice new apartments that will be dirt cheap because of excess supply, that those families can move back in. What do you think? Best, Robert Clever (DU)

    • July 18, 2016 8:33 am

      Hello Robert – warm greetings to you…Of course one never really knows how the Denver gentrification process will play out and it is possible – no probable – that sooner or later the housing bubble will once again burst. Of that I would bet money. Less clear is how it will affect Denver in specific and Colorado in general. At the moment I see no sign of a let up in the increased population growth and a continued rise in housing and rentals that are well out of the possible means of many to pay. And even if the bubble bursts, given the diversity of the Colorado economy it is hard to tell if housing and rental prices will collapse (as a few of us had naively speculated). I think rather not….but then what do I know? Best, Rob P.

  8. Thomas M. Rauch permalink
    July 20, 2016 12:30 pm


    I would be glad to add my name to your letter. I like to use my full name on such pieces: Thomas M. Rauch. Thanks very much for the invitation. Your description of the previous City Council as “brain-dead” is all right, but i see them more as puppets of Hancock and the developers. This is just my comment; I don’t want you to change the letter. See you tonight.

    Peace, Tom >

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