Food Field Trips: Denver – Sprout City Farms (Part 1 of 3)

Around the country, there are hundreds (maybe thousands!) of organizations working to improve our food system. By sharing about non-profits and for-profits that are working in this space, we can find inspiration and learn about successful strategies while building a national food community.

My Food Field Trip series here on my blog will do just that. I will profile various organizations to highlight their goals, programs, methods, and financial models (as much as possible). So hop on the bus, we’re going on a field trip!

First up: a 3-part post on organizations committed to food justice and sustainable food in Denver, Colorado.

I was lucky enough to visit three exciting organizations as part of a social enterprise conference I attended recently. Today, read about the first organization, then come back next week for part 2 of this post and the week after for part 3 to learn more about the food scene in Denver.

Sprout City Farms

Sprout City Farms - a sustainable urban farm in Denver, Colorado

Sprout City Farms is an urban agriculture non-profit that creates and maintains educational urban farms in Denver. The organization currently has a handful of locations and the farm I visited is located at the Denver Green School (a K-8 public school). On this one-acre farm, the folks of Sprout City Farms grow food and educate students and community members.

During my visit, my host, Farmer Meg, talked about the tomatoes, peppers, onions, bok choy, shallots, cucumbers, melons, and many other fruits & vegetables grown here. She also explained how the teachers in the Denver Green School integrate learning on the farm with learning in their classrooms.

Farmer Meg explains about this urban farm's social enterprise model.

Farmer Meg explains about this urban farm's social enterprise model.

Perfect for learning to count and add.

Perfect for learning to count and add.

Many teachers bring their students out to the farm (weather-permitting) for lessons. The second graders, for example, learn multiplication tables counting rows and columns of peppers. The older students learn about earth life cycles on the farm. When it’s time to harvest, you bet the students are out there alongside the staff as part of their “service learning” projects for school.

For seven out of the nine months of the school year, the farm supplies most of the school cafeteria’s produce. During lunch, students love identifying “their” tomatoes they’ve been growing all season, and they eat whatever is ripe when they come out to the farm during classes.

The produce supplied to the school is only part of the farm’s annual harvest. With all the extra produce grown here, Sprout City Farms created a CSA program for the local community, and a farm stand on school grounds managed by the 6th grade students while they learn business and communication skills.

Sustainable agriculture social enterprise in Denver, Colorado.

Adults also learn from the farm. They can take community workshops on gardening and receive recipes created by Farmer Meg on the best uses of seasonal produce.

This model works because Sprout City Farms is run separately from the school, but partners with it in key ways. The school leases the land and water to the farm for free and purchases from it the produce for the cafeteria. The farm brings in money from its CSA program, educational workshops for adults, and community fundraisers. It also receives 30% of its funding in grants.

This amazing model immediately had me wishing that my elementary school and middle school had a farm in the backyard too (even though it would have been frozen through much of my school year)!

Sprout City Farms is making it happen with a successfully implemented model at the Denver Green School to both supply local produce and teach the next generation about the importance of growing food.


Like Sprout City Farms? Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post in the Food Field Trips series on Denver, coming NEXT WEEK!