December 4, 2009 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
On a recent visit to the mile high city, I was happy to attend the inaugural day of Denver’s first indoor farmer’s market, November 20th, at Denver Urban Homesteading. I should have arrived earlier because Harvest Acres, a purveyor of farm fresh eggs, sold out in the first 45 minutes. I was able to score some unfiltered honey from Lee’s Bees and two packages of Fiona’s Natural Foods gluten free quinoa crunch, one of which my friend’s dachshund stole and devoured when I momentarily left my bag on the ground. The dog has a fine culinary palette.
Denver Urban Homesteading is the for-profit company of James and Irina Bertini, who’s inspiration for founding it is based on their belief that there must be successful for-profit models developed if small organizations like theirs are to grow, proliferate and help teach the public how to live more sustainable lives. The Bertinis believe that, just as farmers must earn a profit to grow food, so must we earn a profit to distribute food and knowledge about food.
In addition to a classroom and farmer’s market, Denver Urban Homesteading is a meeting place for activities centered around food and agriculture. This spring, the center will be offering courses in backyard chicken keeping, goat raising, backyard fish farming, and worm composting. Bertoli envisions expanding the center’s offerings including plans to build a commercial kitchen.
One of the chicken coops available through Denver Urban Homesteading.
Bertoli’s interest in urban agriculture began with a personal campaign to change Denver’s restrictive chicken and goat laws. ”Getting a permit to raise chickens in Denver is harder than getting a permit to open a porn shop,” Bertoli told me. Current Denver ordinances allow ownership of chickens, goats, ducks and other animals after going through a permitting process that proponents argue can be cumbersome (takes around 2 months) and expensive ($150 – $300.)
He described his own plight trying to keep chickens and the eventual surrender of his flock to the vendor from whom he was buying the feed. Bertoli, an attorney, continues to actively lobby to “decriminalize Denver’s chickens” seeking change in the local zoning laws for which says he will dress up as a chicken to make his point if necessary. The Bertolis have channeled their interest in urban agriculture into a contribution to the citizens of Denver by offering classes and a market while at the same time creating a financially sustainable and satisfying business for themselves.
For more information, visit denverurbanhomesteading.com