Sprout City Farms is about to break ground at Jack’s Solar Garden in Longmont, our first site outside of Metro Denver! Sprout City Farms has been cultivating educational urban farms across the Denver metro area since 2010. Our journey and vision began with the Denver Green School Community Farm, a one-acre school farm built in partnership with Denver Public Schools. We expanded in 2014 with the Mountair Park Community Farm in partnership with the City of Lakewood; and again in 2016 with the Dahlia Campus Farm in partnership with the Mental Health Center of Denver (which they have since taken under their own management). In the spirit of expanding equitable access to farm-fresh food and providing more opportunities to beginning farmers, Sprout City Farms is replicating our model for small-scale sustainable food production and community resource building in a new city! This is the next big step in realizing our vision of creating a network of farms and supporting new farmers.
Why this Partnership
Our partnership with Jack’s Solar Garden, a Longmont family-owned social enterprise, gives us an immense opportunity to expand our farmer training and food distribution programs. We are combining sustainable food production with renewable solar energy production in a burgeoning field called agrivoltaics. Alongside research partners at National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Colorado State University, and University of Arizona, we will cultivate a 5 acre field under solar panels raised six and eight feet off the ground. We are so excited to be a part of this cutting-edge research: this will be the largest agrivoltaics site for vegetable production thus far in the United States!
Growing food under solar panels is a new farming model, and Jack’s Solar Garden needed a partner adept at small-scale, no-till farming practices. Sprout City Farms is the perfect fit for this project. Not only can we bring the necessary farming skills to the site, but we can also distribute the food to those in the community that need it most, and train the next generation of farmers in this new farming method. We will be expanding our Farmer Training programs to include 6-8 Incubator Plots at Jack’s Solar Garden, where beginning farmers can test their business plans with mentorship from experienced farmers and learn agrivoltaic farming practices along the way. Farmers who harvest both solar energy and produce will have diverse sources of income, which will help make farming a more financially sustainable profession. Moreover, agriculture is a major contributor to climate change, which means it can be a major part of the solution if we can embrace new models of sustainable production.
Why this Project is Important
Longmont has the highest level of need in Boulder County, with over 30% of the population living at or below 200% of the poverty level. When the City of Longmont did their Human Services Need Assessment in 2015, food security and equitable access to food was identified as a critical need, with 36% of low to moderate income households identified as food-insecure.
Possible food access efforts at Jack’s include a no-cost weekly food share program for families utilizing SNAP and WIC benefits; farm to school; and donations to local hunger relief efforts. Future educational opportunities include classes and field trips for local schools and youth groups, volunteer days, community workshops, and an internship and apprenticeship program. Most notably, the size of this site gives us the ability to dedicate space to incubator farm plots, to support aspiring farmers in accessing land to develop their business plans and test new and innovative ideas.
Food producers in the US and around the world face incredible challenges. There are many barriers that beginning and first generation farmers face when entering a farming career, and the margin of success for new farming businesses is incredibly low. In addition, the average age of a US farmer is 58, and 90% of current farmers do not have a succession plan.
Moreover, farming, in urban and rural areas, comes with inherent risks including hail, drought, early and late frosts, pest damage, and other variables that affect crop yield. As climate change continues to disrupt weather patterns, these challenges will only intensify. That’s why it’s important that Sprout City Farms comes alongside new farmers, providing them the space and the mentorship to grow their businesses into successful and sustainable enterprises.
To make all of these community benefit programs a reality, WE FIRST HAVE TO BUILD THE FARM!
What We Need to Get Started
It costs $25,000 to transform an empty acre into a working farm. Grass has to be removed. The ground needs to be plowed and soil nutrition has to be developed. Irrigation, cold storage, and a wash station need to be installed. So much goes into creating the infrastructure that will support the farm for years to come, and this is where we need your help!
Your donation will cover start-up costs at Jack’s Solar Garden including:
- Drip Irrigation System
- Cold Storage (a walk-in refrigerator)
- Produce Wash Station
- Field Prep
- Hiring our new staff!
How Farms Build Connections
Collaborations between various organizations expand the reach and impact of the farm. The farms have truly become a community gathering place, bringing together people of all ages and backgrounds to connect with one another, with their food, and with the land. The farm at Jack’s Solar Garden will create similar opportunities for a new community to connect and flourish in the coming years.
How We Know It Works
We have been honing and refining our community farm model for ten years.
We've grown a lot since 2010 (pun intended!)--over 160,000 lbs of food at 3 different urban farm sites, feeding thousands of people with the help of thousands of volunteers! We now allocate nearly half of our harvest to those who need it most, through no-cost weekly food shares for families with SNAP and WIC benefits, donation-based farm stands where SNAP customers receive half price, produce donations to local hunger relief efforts, and farm to cafeteria for local schools. Our education programs support folks at every point in their learning journey, from volunteering to work/trade to employment opportunities, and our training pipeline has developed many of our interns and apprentices into farm managers!
Let's Build This Farm!
Please donate to our crowdfunding campaign TODAY so we can get growing this spring! With your help, we’ll create an innovative new program to support sustainable agriculture and food security for years to come.
Join us on 4/24/21! **postponed from 4/17 due to weather**
Join us for the Groundbreaking Ceremony on Saturday, April 24th from 10am-12pm in the field at Jack's. Everyone is welcome to come learn more about the project, meet the partners, go on a farm tour, participate in some fun (socially distanced) activities, and put a golden shovel in the ground :)