May 30, 2017

Planting and Growing Community

Julie's Family
Julie's Family


If you missed the channel 9 news special, I'd like to take a moment to tell you about our newest garden community, Belmar Gardens. Julie reached out in the fall after her family and neighborhood were recovering from a terrible tradgedy. There had been a shooting on her street that caused so much pain. The community felt shattered. 

With tears in her eyes Julie told me her story, while her 5 and 7 year olds pulled at her arms wanting to color and munch on after school snacks. "I just want to bring our community back together, give them hope after something so terrible."

Julie thought turning her entire yard into a community garden might be a great way to raise spirits and bring neighbors back together. And it has, over 25 of her neighbors and their kids are participating with our newest garden team. To date we have built beds, expanded her irrigation, and started planting the garden. "Their are a lot of families in need in our community and we think this will be a great way to give back while preserving the dignity of anyone who may really need this food." 

It has been amazing to see so much support rally around Julie's home and Jovial is honored to be a part of her mission to rebuild trust and friendship. Transforming an entire yard took over 200 volunteer hours and a good deal of funds, we hope you will consider coming out to volunteer or making a contribution to our project. 

Did you know its planting time and we now have 75 gardens spanning from Lakewood to Denver and Arvada to Littleton? We hope to donate over 15,000lbs of food this year because of supporters like you. 

Our super soft opening party is happening at 5045 W 1st Ave on June 11th. Feel free to join us and see some of our gardens up close, meet our team leaders and the wonderful volunteers who make this happen every year. 


Apr 11, 2017

Involvement is Empowerment

When we at Jovial Concepts decide to build our garden classrooms, we set out to accomplish a few goals. Of course, we want to introduce youth (especially those who may not otherwise have the opportunity) to the process of growing and eating their own wholesome vegetables. We take serious pride in these introductions. I vividly remember one such moment. I was leading a volunteer group of at-risk youth in a gardening exercise for the day. When we first explained that we would be harvesting heirloom yellow pear tomatoes, we were met with a few groans and even an explicit "I don't eat tomatoes." However we encouraged them to snack as they picked, as these are a favorite amongst staff. A short while later, the same youth who proclaimed loudly that he did not eat tomatoes was not only snacking on them, but making remarks to others about how good they were. That kind of change in attitude can only come from first-hand experience and involvement.

Beyond introducing youth to better food, there is also the irrefutable desire to create a safe space where these youth feel they can be respected, and better yet celebrated for whom they are as individuals. From the minute these youth enter a greenhouse, classroom or garden with us, it is our job to make them feel valued for providing us with their time and energy. Even on the days when they do not want to participate for whatever reasons, it behooves us to offer any and all support that we can provide. 

But what is most important is the fact that we involve these youth in our food system and give them the sense that they can be active participants in our society. With every tomato that these students plant, nurture, harvest, and then transport to their school cafeteria we are not only simultaneously improving their health, physically and mentally, but empowering them to take a stand in their community. We want our students to know that they can provide for themselves, their family, and their peers. We can use gardens and greenhouses to grow food surely. But when you put them on a schools grounds you can help to cultivate not only fruits and vegetables, but also curiosity and a healthy lifestyle. Involvement is Empowerment.

Feb 27, 2017

Spring Awakening

Dear Jovial Friends,


It was a busy winter for the folks at Jovial. Out partner food bank of 3 years was shut down due to financial reasons. In a crazy bout of luck, Jovial Concepts and Jun-Key SuperFoods were able to purchase the building.

The Barnum neighborhood is a food desert, medical desert, and transportation desert with a higher level of poverty than most of Denver.

We are thrilled to bring our services to Barnum and start transforming lawns to gardens. Allison May moved to Barnum 36 years ago. She moved in with her 2 sisters after domestic violence plagued her home and she had nowhere else to go. She was too afraid to return to work and happened across the ACS Community LIFT. She was given a free shower, free medical care, and enough food to last a week.

After about a month of coming in, she applied for a job and helped in the food bank. She met other individuals who were trying to get back on their feet. She eventaully started a work force development program and helped neighbors get everything they needed to go into a job interview. She worked in our building for 25 years.

Last week we held our first community meeting and Allison May shared her story with me. She broke into tears with excitement and gratitude. She was so worried the space would become a liquor store or some other drain on her beloved community. She rallied the Barnum neighbors and got over 500 signatures in support of our work in Barnum.

We now have 8 jovial garden neighborhoods and over 74 gardens! 90% of the food will be donated and 10% will be use at the new Jovial Concepts building to be used in cooking, nutrition, processing, canning, dehydrating clasess and so much more. We will also have space for Totes for Hope to pack HEALTHY backpacks of fresh food to sustain food insecure students over the weekend. We have 15 large gardens and a greenhouse wrapping our new space. Come out and grow with us!

To best serve our community, we are going to need to fix up the building as soon as possible. We need skilled professionals, materials, tables, chairs, shelving, and so much more. If you can help with our this project please reach out to 303-578-2569.  Our grand opening will be in May and will include live music and a plant sale!

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