Category Archives: Food donation

CSU Spur – The New Education Kid in Town

By Valerie Podmore, CSU Extension – Denver Master Gardener since 2020

Trigger Warning…Terrible rhyming ahead!

Hey everybody, have you heard

About the amazing new campus called CSU Spur?

It’s a science-based learning center

Teaching all kinds of subjects

And the beauty of it is that

it’s free and open to the public!

What is this “Spur” about which you rhyme so poorly?

CSU Spur is an offshoot of Colorado State University, a new urban campus in Denver which aims to educate the public in subjects which affect us all as citizens of this planet and Colorado. Spur’s focus is on engaging pre-K-12 youth in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) subjects and encourage their participation in related careers. Not only are there educational programs focused on food, water, and health, but community outreach, research, and partnerships with schools and industry.

While there’s something to do and see almost every day at Spur, the family fun really happens on the 2nd Saturday of every month.  Check the continually updated events page for new activities. In addition, school groups are welcome so get in contact to schedule a visit!

CSU Spur is located at the National Western Center, just north of I-70 between Washington Street and Brighton Boulevard. It consists of three separate buildings on the National Western Center campus: Vida, Terra, and Hydro (opening January 2023).


Terra is the earth sciences building, where agriculture is brought to life in a way that educates us ‘regular folk’ on where our food comes from and how we can all participate in creating a food future that is sustainable and benefits all.

At Terra you can observe plant and food growth research, participate in cooking classes, watch the creation of new food products in the innovation lab, see how agriculture can take place even in urban spaces like on the green roof of Terra, and inside you’ll see the most amazing plant wall!

Not only is it pretty (remarkable!) but this year the green roof’s vegetable garden produced an amazing amount of produce which was donated to a local food pantry partner, Growhaus. Read about it here.

The Soil, Water and Plant Testing Laboratory, formerly located in Fort Collins, has moved to Spur! This is a great facility to assist with learning what our soil needs, what might be wrong with our plants, and how best to treat them. This blog explains how soils testing can help us create a great garden.

Terra is the place if you want to learn about food and plant careers, as the best of agriculture education happens here!


Vida is the human and animal health and life sciences location! Focused on the connection between humans and animals, Vida aims to educate and engage people about animal and human health.

Interested in learning about veterinary work? Come watch dog and cat surgeries at the Dumb Friends League Veterinary Hospital. The DFL’s aim at Spur is to focus on connections between human and animal life. It’s a teaching hospital for veterinarians in training with the goals of community engagement, education in the humane treatment of animals and the effects animals have on us humans as well. Check it out here.

The Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center helps horses needing physical rehab and therapy to recover from injuries and is also available for viewing by the public.

If you’re familiar with CSU Professor Temple Grandin, you know that large animals and their humane treatment are her passion. At the Temple Grandin Equine Center, a variety of therapies are available for individuals with a range of challenges utilizing the Vida horses.


Hydro is close to complete, opening January 6th of 2023!

This will be the water education center, where you can learn about the far-reaching impact of the waters which begin here in Colorado. Located adjacent to the Platte River, the public can learn about headwaters and watersheds.

Hydro will house a café using produce grown onsite, include many different art exhibits, contain a variety of spaces for meetings and learning. It will be the permanent home of CSU Masters of Agribusiness and Food Innovation Management, the CSU Water in the West Symposium and other programs.

As water is so important here in the West, this building will be a wonderful learning and solution-focused resource.

Trust us, just GO!

The new CSU Spur campus has so much available, it’s hard to put it all in one post. It is truly is amazing and will only grow and improve as time continues, so check out the FAQ page and plan a visit – you might be surprised what you learn!

Highlighting People that Make a Difference: Barbara Masoner of Grow Local Colorado

by Gail Leidigh, CSU Extension – Denver Master Gardener since 2021

One of the best things about being a master gardener is the opportunity to volunteer with some amazing local organizations, and among them is Grow Local Colorado. Started in 2009 by a group of people who were concerned about the environment, sustainability, and food equity, Grow Local now has 20 gardens in locations throughout the Denver metro area, and last year contributed nearly 10,000 pounds of fresh food to area food pantries and organizations that address food insecurity.

I recently had a chance to sit and talk with the founder and co-director, Barbara Masoner, about the work they do and the future of the organization (conversation has been edited for length and clarity).

Can you tell me more about Grow Local and how it got started?

There was a group of us during the great recession asking what can we do to help? Food inequity was a big issue, as well as the environment and sustainability, and gardening was an obvious solution. John Hickenlooper, mayor of Denver at the time, initially offered Civic Center Park to start a garden, so the project could be seen by the public community, and then later the yard at the Governor’s Mansion. Denver Urban Gardens and Denver Botanic Garden first provided plants, and the collaboration got lots of press. Now we have gardens in 20 different places. Recently, Adams County schools became a partner, as there is such a need there. Our garden partners do have to commit volunteers and their time to grow the food. The Denver city greenhouse has offered to grow our seedlings for us for the past four years.

Are there any aspects of the projects that Grow Local is doing that you are especially excited about?

The ability to share the magic, such as the public seeing the vegetable gardens at Civic Center and asking what it is about. Even during the Black Lives Matter protests during the summer of 2020, with huge groups of people gathering at Civic Center Park, the gardens were not disturbed. People from the homeless communities will offer to help plant as a way of giving back.

How do you decide where to donate the food that is grown?

We let the garden volunteers decide where the food goes, and they often have community connections. The smaller food pantries especially appreciate the fresh produce.

What are your biggest challenges?

This year we’ve harvested about 5,000 pounds so far and expect it to be about 8,000 pounds for the year. We had some pest and water issues this season and there was an infestation of harlequin bugs at Civic Center Park.

We can always use more experienced gardener volunteers. People mean well, and one year we lined an entire garden with herbs to keep out the geese, and a volunteer accidentally pulled them all.

In our future – figuring how to grow vegetables (in hotter and drier climates), and making our food equitable. Right now, we have offers to glean more fruit trees than we could possibly get to without the help of more people, more paid staff (and more time!).

What is your favorite plant/vegetable?

That is like asking “who is your favorite child?” I would say okra – it is a lovely vegetable, with a beautiful flower and a delicious fruit.

Who does your social media? You have some fantastic content illustrating your work and volunteer opportunities (like and follow with the links below!).

Linda Kiker, co-director of Grow Local, does the content for our Instagram page, and I do the Facebook page.

Interested in supporting such an important and great local cause? The Grow Local Colorado website has further details on helping out with volunteer and monetary support.

Harvesting and Storing Vegetables for Peak Flavor and Freshness

By: Molly Gaines, CSU Extension – Denver Master Gardener since 2019

If you’re a vegetable gardener, you’ve likely begun to harvest some of the goodness resulting from your spring and summer efforts. My garden favorite, ‘Sun Gold’ cherry tomatoes, are just ripening. They taste like pure sunshine (those of you who’ve grown or eaten know what I’m talking about!) and I eat them like candy, straight from the vine. Because of this, it’s rare for more than a handful to make it into my kitchen.

Yet everything else in my garden — the herbs, cucumbers, green beans, summer squash and hot peppers — require some prepping, peeling, chopping, or cooking. They all need proper picking and storage until I’m ready to use them.

How and when to harvest, and how best to store your bounty, can be confusing. It’s a combination of art and science. I hope the following information helps guide you through one of the best parts of a vegetable gardener’s season: harvest time.

Knowing What’s Ready

In order to assess what’s ready for harvest, I do an early morning garden walk. It’s become one of my favorite parts of my summer days. It’s when I harvest vegetables from my garden, as it is best to pick in the morning when it’s cooler. There’s more time to gather your harvest and bring it into the kitchen before it wilts. Additionally, veggies regain moisture they’ve lost during the day, leading to overall better produce. See more about the benefits of morning harvesting here.

When you planted last spring, you may have noted when your produce should be ready. Every seed packet has a number of days until harvest, as do the tags in starter plants. However, “days to harvest” is an estimate, as it will vary depending upon your growing conditions. Soil fertility, sunshine, heat, water, etc. all impact maturity. In my own garden, our red onions should be ready to dig, but they aren’t even close because they’re partially shaded by large Zinnias above. For specific estimates on days to harvest for each vegetable, visit this helpful link from the University of Minnesota Extension. While Colorado’s climate is quite different from Minnesota, we have a similar growing season.

While it may seem counterintuitive, the more you pick, the more a plant will produce. Don’t let those zucchinis and cucumbers get too big; they won’t taste great or could be inedible. Pick produce frequently and when they are smaller, versus letting vegetables that are ripe enough continue to hang out on the vine. To keep my garden producing at an optimal level when I’m out of town, I like to hire neighbor kids to harvest or invite a friend who loves fresh vegetables to stop by and fill a bucket.

How to Harvest and Store

Harvest your produce gently and with care. Snapping off the end of your green beans or cucumbers will invite quicker decay in the fridge. It can also damage the plant, inviting disease and pests. If you’re not able to easily twist or pull a pepper or tomato or any other veggie from the vine, it’s time to use scissors or pruners. I always keep scissors close to my garden for easy use.

Speaking of proper storage, it’s disappointing to open the fridge and finding hard-fought basil browned, or last week’s fresh cucumber now mushy. We Colorado gardeners work very hard for our veggies, so it’s worth storing them properly until use. Visit here for a terrific guide to harvesting and then storing garden favorites, from when to pick to proper storage directions, including ideal temperatures.

What to Do with Excess Harvest

If you find yourself with more fresh produce than you can handle, there are a number of Denver-based organizations that will accept your extra vegetables. Here is a recent article listing some of those organizations. For more information about how to best contribute your produce locally, visit the Grow and Give website, for general donation information.

These harvest and storage tips should find you enjoying your summer bounty as long as possible, enjoying peak flavor and maximum freshness — and savoring every last bite.

Other Helpful Resources on Harvesting

CSU Onion Trial is Food Pantry Windfall

Image provided by Cindy Schoepp, Calvary Chapel Food Pantry

Hundreds of pounds of field-fresh onions made it to Brighton’s Calvary Chapel Food Pantry through a combination of opportunity, targeted schmoozing and good timing.

The onion donation came by way of CSU Extension’s Northern Colorado Onion Variety Trial in Adams County.

The onion trial helps farmers find the best onion varieties to plant and grow in Northern Colorado. Seed producers provide their onion seeds for the trial and Sakata Farms hosts the trials by donating space in its fields and caring for the onions.

The trial program started in the mid-1970s, according to Eric Hammond, CSU Extension Agent in Adams County. The onion varieties are evaluated for their pest resistance, yield and storage ability. This year’s trial included 39 different onion cultivars.

The annual research update meeting in September provided the opportunity for the onion donation. Linda Young, executive director of Brighton Shares the Harvest, attended the meeting to learn more about the onion trial and those involved in the research.

She said Thad Gourd presented a program about the trial’s onion seeds and explained how they used a 3-D printer to improve the efficiency of an old onion planter to space and plant the seeds.

Before the program adjourned to the field tour of the research plots, Linda cornered Eric to find out what happens to the onions after the trial is completed.

“I mentioned that Brighton Shares the Harvest would be very interested in having any onions they didn’t need,” she said.

Eric was unsure there would be onions to donate, but he surprised her in early October with an offer of several hundred pounds of onions. The only catch — they had to be moved quickly, by October 11.

Linda immediately called Cindy Schoepp, director at the Calvary Chapel Food Pantry, for an ASAP onion pick up. The onions were gathered and ready for the October 14 pantry distribution.

“The timing was perfect, as the pantry is only open twice a month,” Linda said.

Brighton Shares the Harvest is a nonprofit organization that works year-round to make sure “Everybody has access to affordable, fresh, healthy, locally grown food.”

In addition to accepting donations of fresh produce, the organization makes it easy to donate money through its affiliations with Botanical Interests seed orders and King Soopers Community Rewards Program.

By Jodi Torpey
Master Gardener volunteer since 2005

Grow Local Colorado and the Harvard Gulch Park Vegetable Garden

The Denver Extension CSU Master Gardeners (CMGs) in partnership with Grow Local Colorado have been growing a vegetable demonstration garden at Harvard Gulch Park on the corner of Emerson St. and Iliff Ave. in Denver for several years.  Produce from this joint project is donated to the Community Ministry Food Bank and the Food Bank at the University Church of Christ.

Harvard Gulch Park vegetable garden

Harvard Gulch Park vegetable garden – June 2016

Every year beginning in March while there is still snow on the ground, the CMGs start vegetable plants from seed at the City Park Greenhouses.   They nurse the seedlings until late May when the plants are big and sturdy and ready to be planted at Harvard Gulch Park.  With the help of Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado,  the CMGs plant tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, squash, peppers, cabbage,  lettuce and chard in the demonstration garden.  Over the course of the next several months, CMG volunteers water, weed and harvest the bounty for donation to local food banks.  As of the middle of August, the Harvard Gulch garden has produced more than 440 pounds of produce and the season is just kicking into high gear.

Our partner, Grow Local Colorado is an organization dedicated to promoting local food, local community and local economy.  The Harvard Gulch Vegetable Garden is one of several Grow Local sponsored gardens in Metro Denver including a number of Denver parks and the Colorado Governor’s Mansion.  These Grow Local sponsored gardens are providing thousands of pounds of fresh produce to communities that do not have easy access to healthy food.  The garden partnerships are just one of several projects Grow Local is engaged in to encourage Coloradans to grow and share produce with others in their communities.  Visit the Grow Local website to find out more.

If your garden is producing more vegetables than you and your family can consume, consider donating your garden surplus to area organizations that help those experiencing food insecurity.  The attached link at the Denver Extension website is a guide to organizations in your community that will gladly accept your surplus bounty.

Harvest from Harvard Gulch Park vegetable garden

Harvest from Harvard Gulch Park vegetable garden

The City and County of Denver is working with members of the community to ensure food security for all Denver residents through the Denver Sustainable Food Policy Council.  To learn more about the Sustainable Food Policy Council and Denver’s food system from production to distribution to consumption check out the Denver Department of Environmental Health’s Food Systems Policies website.    Find out how our food system works (or doesn’t) and its impact on the health of our citizens.

If your green thumb was too green this summer, join Grow Local Colorado, the Denver Extension CSU Master Gardeners and others in helping bring healthy produce to all members of our community.

Written by Mark Zammuto, a Denver County Master Gardener