Have you ever heard the phrase, “food desert”? Most of us at Natural Habitat Adventures weren’t aware that there was a food desert so close to our Colorado headquarters until our spring volunteer day in May 2018. About 24 of our office staff had the opportunity to help out at Growing Gardens, a local nonprofit dedicated to getting community members involved with growing and cooking their own food.

Nat Hab employees volunteered at one of the organizations’ gardens located in Longmont, CO, that is used primarily for growing produce for donation to community members in-need. This one-acre garden plot is located behind the local YMCA, in the middle of a food desert: an area of town (usually with lower-income residents) that doesn’t have convenient access to affordable, nutritious food and is lacking in local supermarkets. By definition, the closest supermarket is more than a mile away in an urban setting.

Spring Volunteer Day 2018

As a Longmont resident for more than 20 years, I was surprised to learn that this part of town was considered food desert. However, when I stopped for a moment and thought about where we were, I realized that there was no local supermarket that would be easily accessible for residents. When I did the math, the closest supermarket providing fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat was two miles away. Not an easy trek for a hard-working family that may or may not have access to a personal motor vehicle.

Growing Gardens offers community garden plots, cooking classes, community-supported agriculture (CSA) memberships, gardening classes, and garden plots that are used to grow produce for donation to various people and nonprofits in our local communities. They also play host to various summer camps and after-school gardening clubs to get the little ones interested in gardening and cooking. Their ultimate goal is to provide greater food security and hunger relief for the residents of Boulder County.

Our crew of 24 ended up saving the garden manager more than 100 hours of work with the tasks we completed over the course of four hours. We planted 210 plants, harvested and washed hundreds of radishes, and weeded all of their flower and vegetable beds, doubling the amount of compost they had available for fertilizing the garden. All of the food that we helped plant is being harvested and donated to Longmont’s OUR Center, which provides assistance to the city’s homeless and impoverished population, especially women, infants and children.

We left Growing Gardens that day covered in dirt and sweat, but with a great feeling of accomplishment knowing that our hard work would help feed some of our neighbors right here in Boulder County.

This guest post was written by Natural Habitat Adventures Sky Ambassador Holly Glessner.