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“Did you see those mulberry, cherry, and peach trees? They’re bursting,” says Beverly Grant, who is practically bursting herself—from excitement—as she points toward the row of bushes that mark the southern edge of Mo’ Betta Green’s first urban farm, a 5,000-square-foot lot on a quiet, residential corner in Cole. “I look at fruit trees and berry bushes; that’s legacy farming. They’ll be there long after [we’re gone],” Grant says. “It’s the gift that keeps on giving.”
Grant’s gift to her hometown is about more than a few plants, though. Born and raised in the area between Five Points and Park Hill, the Denverite has spent the past 11 years working to increase access to local, organic, and healthy food. Grant founded Mo’ Betta Green in 2010 as a farmers’ market and education and wellness platform; she now has three Seeds of Power Unity Farm sites spread across central Denver.
“Urban farming exists to address food gaps in cities,” she says, and to “shift people’s relationship to food, so they realize the way they eat, how they eat, and how it’s paramount to their health.” That’s why she chose Cole, Uptown, and Northeast Park Hill for her farms: All are within food deserts, places that have limited access to fresh-food outlets. They have also historically been home to sizable Black and Latino populations, which are more likely to face systemic health issues.
Mo’ Betta regularly opens its fences to entertain and engage the surrounding neighborhoods during Community Workdays, during which individuals spend three evening hours tending the land, learning about farming, and sharing a meal. Culinary and nutrition education classes are expected to start back up next month after being paused as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students are also an important focus: Mo’ Betta employs about 25 kids and young adults, ages 14 to 24, throughout the summer who help with farm maintenance, do community engagement, and staff the weekly farm stands. (These replaced Grant’s long-standing farmers’ markets during the pandemic and will continue this season.) This year, education director Asia Dorsey is launching a paid medicine-making apprenticeship for people of varied cultural communities. “Part of what I want to do is show folks in the city that urban farming is a real career path with longevity,” Grant says. As a Black woman employing primarily women and youth of color, this work takes on added meaning: By the start of this century, Black farmers in America had lost 90 percent of their farming land.
Grant was introduced to farming as a kid. Most of the vegetables she ate were grown, canned, and dried by her grandma, who planted a verdant garden in her Whittier backyard. Grant now advocates for improved food access at the state Legislature and envisions a city where people in underserved neighborhoods become “their own food solution.”
As she leans down to pull weeds from the edges of the Cole garden, she pauses to imagine what it would be like if a few homes on every block in these neighborhoods had their own gardens. Suddenly, she says, a food desert would become a “food oasis.” Every piece of fruit picked and tree planted today is another step toward making that vision a reality.
3551 Humboldt St. (5–8 p.m., first and third Saturdays)
2401 Welton St. (10 a.m.–2 p.m., second and fourth Saturdays)
2536 Champa St. (noon–4 p.m., Sundays)
Northeast Park Hill
3401 Eudora St. (noon–4 p.m., Fridays)