Launching in 2021, the 1.2-acre Urban Farm in downtown Denver, Colorado grows everything from basil to cowpeas, ensuring community members have access to vital food. Huerta Urbana, run by the Focus Point Family Resource Center, is more than just a farmers market. This is an agricultural education and entrepreneurship program that offers classes and opportunities for those who want to work in the food sector.
Participants receive training to manage farms, pursue careers such as environmental agriculture, or open their own farming business. “Every participant can earn while they learn,” says Matthew Vernon, program director. “All time spent on the program is paid for, as child care, transportation, rent, and utility bills are added. I am not making any money.”
For Daisy Bustilos, a dream come true for her mother, Soledad, and sister, Karen, since coming to Denver from Chihuahua, Mexico, Huerta Urbana presented an opportunity. Bustiros and her sister grew up feeling her mother’s passion for gardening and fresh cut flowers. I even had a hobby business buying flowers, making arrangements and selling them on the street for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. But they didn’t have the space to plant their own flowers in Denver and grow the project into a full-time business.
Serendipity has arrived in 2020. When Bustillos’ mother helped her garden in the Focus Points community and piloted the Huerta Urbana program, the three quickly joined.
Bustilos took all the classes offered and learned how to start a farm, grow different plants, tend to crops, harvest them and then sell them. Nearly three years after her, the women now run her S&D Creations. “We grow our own flowers, make the arrangements, and sell them at Farmer’s Market. We also make jewelry and other crafts with dried flowers,” says Bustiros. “This program has been very helpful in educating us about urban farming and providing her seven stilt beds in our flower garden.”
In addition to the educational component, business funding, and hands-on training Huerta Urbana offers, they also offer a version of CSA, Veggie Valet. “Not only that [our] Produce – eggs, meat, meat substitutes, flour, masa, honey, beans East Denver Food Hub (a social enterprise that supports small farms on the Eastern Plains); and has partnered with two bakeries in neighborhoods affected by I-70 construction. It’s a way to support our vendors while providing our customers with fresh Colorado products,” he says.
With little access to healthy food and produce, the community has embraced Huerta Urbana, now within easy walking distance. “Food has increased by 400% for him, and the volume of produce in circulation has increased by 500% for him,” he says. “This is thousands of pounds of produce that is shipped to hundreds of homes each week. We operate on a pay-as-you-pay model and Denver accepts SNAP and WIC. is the market of
While produce dominates, Huerta Urbana also has tables for businesses such as Compost Colorado, where people have access to compostable hygiene products like toothbrushes, laundry detergent, and dust bags. The Family Support Service registers people who receive SNAP, WIC, utility system, and rental assistance. dumb friends league We distribute infrequently used leashes, collars, toys and information about upcoming free spay/neuter clinics. The goal is to provide a one-stop shop for essentials without the shame and embarrassment that sometimes comes from need-based programs.
For Vernon, who has a personal history of not having what he needs, removing shame was an important consideration. We joined this line because we use tokens instead of money in the world and now everyone knows. We provide “market dollars” to families so everyone is using the same currency I feel like This model allows customers to fully participate and Focus Points reimburses vendors for the difference between what they collect and the market rate for their product.
Wander through Huerta Urbana every Friday and you’ll hear three or four different languages spoken.Children gather for storytime at the Denver Public Library, the smell of fresh tamales and tacos fills the air, and performances by her artists project athena (Colorado non-profit organization empowering women through the arts) Sing, dance and draw. There is poetry reading and face painting. Vernon said Huerta began addressing inequalities in access to food during the pandemic, but the space has evolved into her social hub. More than an urban farm, it’s a cultural exchange that strengthens the surrounding community.
“[Living in] Being within walking distance of Huerta, you can see how much the area has contributed to the community,” says Bustiros. “Today, our neighbors don’t know each other very well, but Huerta is a place where we can socialize, meet each other’s families and support each other. [one another]”