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Rose Roots History: Grassroots Community Engagement Results in Community Garden

Interviewer: Erin Newton,, (303) 253-5090

Interviewee: John Chisum on May 2, 2019, Rose Roots Community Garden Founder along with Gina Schley, Garden Founder.

1. The neighborhoods around Rose Roots were established between 20 and 30 years ago and are called Five Parks to the West and Lakecrest to the East. How did the idea come about to create a community garden on city park open space between these neighborhoods? What were the initial goals and vision?

I lived next door to Gina Schley, and she was a real driver. We heard the area might be slated for more houses or tennis courts. In order to preserve the open space feel between developments, Gina contacted city council and Bob Dyer and shared that the Community of Five Parks had a plot of land that was designated as park land and the community was interested in having a community garden in addition to the five parks that were developed. The team applied for a city grant of $175,000 and proposed community agriculture as well as a CSA and an orchard which hasn’t yet been built out. They added a through way sidewalk to unite communities. At the end of the first three seasons we offered gardeners surveys with questions like “how many community members have you met?” And “how much more do you walk?” And “how many more vegetables do you eat?” We got positive feedback from respondents suggesting they felt more integrated in their community.

A private property to the east of the garden was offered grazing land for their llamas in exchange for the agreement to have the garden and walkway. The council wanted to preserve the agricultural and open space feel.

2. How did you come up with the Rose Roots Name?

There was a historic well and a small homesteading house to the west of the garden and the owners last name was “Rose” so the name was chosen to preserve a link with regional history.

3. What was the process of establishing the garden and costs? How did you become a member of Denver Urban Gardens?

Gina led several women from the CSA who helped write the grant proposal. I served as an advisor in how to create non-profits. There were others in the community who wanted to create a 501c3 after the model the Arvada Gardeners used, who used to be called the “Arvada Men’s Gardening Club”. Denver Urban Gardens holds a contract with the city of Arvada, so they offered master Gardener classes to our leaders and through community meetings to offer community information. DUG offered a template on how to start a new garden and supported the community meetings efforts. DUG offered suggestions of layout, plot sizes, pricing, and designed auto cad drawings. The city did all the watering infrastructure, leveled the land, put up the perimeter fence, and provided insurance. Our volunteers built the plots including the ADA beds, the composters and two small sheds provided by Leadership Arvada who are tied to the Arvada Chamber of Commerce. It is a leadership development organization comprised of adults who seek out community projects and they built and funded the two sheds. This is our 18th season so the actual physical development of the garden came together in the Spring of 2011 with planning starting several years before.

There was a grant from Jeffco that paid for the initial installation of the garden and the city signed a contract with a for-profit farmer for the neighboring CSA property to the south of the Rose Roots Garden. The city contracted out the CSA barn and we later got the same architect to design a larger barn for the Rose Roots Garden.

In 2012, we were awarded an Arvada neighborhood grant, which paid for the pollinator community garden at the entrance on the south side of the garden, plus two shade structures, and the pathways and the Autocad designs with concrete design work around it which made a beautiful entrance for the garden and greenery for those using the walking trail. So volunteer gardeners cleared the land, planted it and put down the paver path using rented equipment. Arvada Rent Alls was very generous in donating equipment for leveling and making paths, flame throwers for cutting back weeds (but they came right back unfortunately), and a steam roller paver to stamp the pathways down. Michael Buchanew, landscape architect, was instrumental in helping explain the project to the city planners and advocating for the initial development of the garden.

4. Have there been other community gardens in Arvada besides the Arvada Gardners on 57th Ave? They have been around for 40 years I believe?

Yes, Arvada Gardeners are well established near downtown Arvada. There are five or six other community gardens including Majestic View, one at a school in the East Part of Arvada, one at the nursing home, one near the Methodist Church on Simms, and several others.

5. How does the garden partner with other organizations? What organizations participated and donated the most in time and resources?

The Arvada Fire department came out and roofed the two sheds. Several Boy Scouts troops have come out and helped maintain garden resources, as well as several churches, schools and service organizations. Many local organizations have donated time and resources, including donations of cement, building materials and labor for our new Red Barn on the west side of the garden.

6. What have been the major garden projects you’ve been proud of over the years and how did they come about?

The initial build out was incredible. People volunteered their skills, tools and equipment and their skills were invaluable. Theresa McKinney also did a wonderful job coordinating the building of the new Large Red Barn on the west side. On Simms and 72nd on the south west side there is a Methodist Church garden which we donated our old garden shed to so we were happy to see it be put to good use.

7. There is a nearby llama farm, a goat farm, other grazing properties, and a CSA group?

Yes, our farming neighbors give it a nice rural feel, despite that the area is surrounded by closely spaced homes. It is nice to have preserved this open space for neighbors to enjoy. We have also hosted bees on the property for the entire time.

8. An orchard was planned in the original design along with how many more garden plots? What types of trees were envisioned and how many parts of the initial garden design have yet to be completed?

The original design was in three phases, and we have built two of the phases. The third phase would build out 24 more plots and the orchard, but we don’t yet have the need for the additional plots yet, and it is a costly build out as the fence has to be moved and more water infrastructure has to be developed. To kick off the community orchard development, we would need a group of passionate organizers, possibly a group who will grow hops low in the orchard for making beer so they would be committed?

9. What is your hope and vision for Rose Roots in the future, how do you see it partnering with the surrounding community, and what projects would you like to see accomplished in its future?

I would love to see the orchard come together in one form or another. I don’t see more plots as an immediate need. The orchard would loop around the current plots on the west, south and east side, and would help with a wind and weed barrier.

10. Who offered the Autocad design drawings for the garden and the red barn?

DUG did the layouts of the common gardens which are between garden plots and maintained for the whole community.

11. Who consulted on the community garden spaces and the types of flora that should go in, and how are they currently maintained?

DUG, volunteers who were botanists, and we had a landscape designer to help design pollinator garden.

12. How does Rose Roots create and enhance community connections?

I think the biggest value is introducing people and creating friendships in neighborhoods where you might have never met each other. Also the benefit to children to be able to interact with the food growing process is crucial. And finally the exercise and fresh air benefit is important for health of our local community.

13. Did you test the soil for plutonium, given the nearby Rocky Flats Nuclear Waste site? Did you amend soil?

We did not do any soil amendments, but we did do a soil test through the University of Colorado, and then we offered private testing kits.

14. What have been the biggest challenges?

Managing volunteers has been the biggest challenge. We aim for people who have not gardened before, sometimes families with kids who have a lot of activities don’t realize the commitment when they have so many other commitments and they struggle to commit to the garden plot and maintaining the community areas. Managing expectations has also been difficult, as some people want a fully organic garden and others just want something to grow. As volunteers, people sometimes have an expectation that things will be done for them and we are entirely a volunteer organization so often we are “where the rubber meets the road” and people have to step up and do things they want to see happen. We started off very idealistic to grow food and be very productive and never waste resources. We had some mentorship who pointed out that we are ultimately trying to build community, and we are much better at it now, but we are always still learning.

Rose Roots Garden Summary

Established: 2011

Number of garden plots: 89

Pollinator Community Garden at Rose Roots entrance: 2012

Type: Organic, member of Denver Urban Gardens

Number of Pounds of Produce donated to Arvada Food Bank annually: Our best year was over 3,000 pounds in 2019! (updated since interview). One year we donated canned goods and bags of rice and beans and flour but it was too much in addition to managing the garden priorities of managing the excess produce.

Colorado Growing Season: Plant May 12 (Mother’s Day or last expected frost)-Harvest throughout but final Harvests happen by Oct 31. Plots required to be planted by June 1.

Cost: $75 for 15’x15’ plot or $35 for smaller raised ADA plots, $45 for half plots.

Materials Provided: fertilizer, water, hoses, 15’x15’ plot, workshops, community music in the garden, potlucks and social time with your gardening neighbors.

To Join the Garden: Contact Plots are sold out for the 2020 season, but future gardeners can get on the waiting list if any plots become available on June 1. We always love to have new gardeners, no matter your level of experience!

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Sep 21, 2021

Thanks for this blog poost

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