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Chatfield Farms provides fresh produce to low-income families

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By Deborah Swearingen

On a hazy September morning, Chris Krabbenhoeft plucks leaves of spinach until his bucket is full.

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Spinach, berries, onions, peas, green beans — depending on the season, the 1.5-acre garden at the Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms location in Littleton has it all.

Krabbenhoeft, coworker Ben Goodrich and Chatfield’s army of volunteers may snack on a snap pea or a strawberry here and there, but the food they plant, cultivate and harvest primarily stocks farm stands across Denver. Through a partnership with Denver Human Services, Chatfield Farms provides fresh vegetables, fruits and other products for several area farm stands, and sells the produce at a discounted rate to low-income families across the metro area.

How the partnership began

Lisana Munoz with Denver Human Services and Josie Hart with the Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms met to discuss ways the two entities could collaborate. Ultimately, they decided to pilot a farm stand at the Denver Human Services location on Federal Boulevard, where they offered discount produce.

“What we found was it was super successful,” Munoz said. “We were able to really get a lot of people to purchase things at the farm stands.”

The partnership not only continued, but it blossomed.

In its first year, more than 3,000 people were served. Each year, they added a new farm-stand location and began encouraging customers to use EBT and Double Bucks when purchasing produce.

EBT or electronic benefits transfer is an electronic system that allows a recipient to authorize transfer of their government benefits from a federal account to a retailer account to pay for products, according the United States Department of Agriculture’s website.

The Double Bucks program allows Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program shoppers to buy more fresh fruits and vegetables.

Coordinating multiple farm stands took trial and error, but Munoz is pleased with the growth. She said the partnership has been successful in increasing awareness and providing fresh produce for those who might not normally have access.

“You are talking about health for not only yourself but your family,” she said, adding that people frequently do not realize there are fresh produce stands that accept EBT cards.

“I think that’s what’s most important — being able to have access and have choice,” Munoz said. “If you live anywhere near our building, your choice is the 7-Eleven.”

From start to finish

Almost every day at Chatfield Farms, Krabbenhoeft is outside, working with his hands and growing food. But he also loves that he plays a role in every part of the market garden operation — from planting, watering and harvesting the produce to coordinating delivery of the goods to the farm-stand locations.

“I’m sort of in charge of the space, so you get to see all aspects of it,” he said. “There’s a business aspect with the market. There’s just plain field work … but then you also have to plan it all out.”

While harvesting green beans, Goodrich echoed many of the same sentiments as Krabbenhoeft. He said he appreciates working on a secluded plot of land in South Jeffco that’s close to the hogback but also close enough to Denver to harvest produce and drive it straight to market.

Fresh produce can be expensive, and it’s not always a feasible purchase for low-income families. But with the farm stands, Denver Human Services and Chatfield Farms hope to change the narrative with the goal of creating a sustainable community and finding creative solutions to combat the area’s food deserts — places with limited access to affordable and nutritious foods.

“It’s kind of disheartening and rewarding at the same time,” Goodrich said. “But it’s kind of cool to see the immediate effect it has on people’s families, and the people who are stoked about it are really happy.”

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042. Follow her on Twitter @djswearingen.