Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

Boundless Landscapes reimagines urban farming


January 8, 2020 | View PDF

Kirsten Boyer Photography

Teen farmers apprenticed with Boundless Landscapes in 2019

"We talk about turning the world into a garden. What if as we walked through neighborhoods and communities, everywhere you looked there were vegetables growing, fruits growing, mushroom logs, teenagers who knew their neighbors..."

This is the vision outlined by Mara Rose, Co-Founder and CEO of Boundless Landscapes. And this innovative organization is in the process of making that vision a reality.

Rose, Josh Tosteson, and Sep Kamvar co-founded Boundless Landscapes in 2019 to answer an important question: "How can we build community at a hyper-local level to begin to address big, daunting problems?"

With its members spread across the country, the founding team debated where to enact their experiment. Despite the hail, heat, drought, wind, and changeable weather, the team decided Boulder was their best bet. "If we can make the model work here, it has some potential," said Rose.

The idea was to grow food for the neighborhood, in the neighborhood, while providing education to local students on farming and small business management. Boundless Landscapes also made two important and unconventional decisions.

First, they cast themselves as a landscaping service; homeowners pay for the privilege of growing food in their backyards. "We are addressing what people think of as beautiful," said Rose. The opportunity is to replace resource-intensive lawn with landscapes that "...provide forage for pollinators, feed community, sink carbon, provide meaningful jobs for teenagers, land for young farmers...and look beautiful."

Rose, Tosteson and Kamvar also decided to set up the business as a Public Benefit Corporation. As Rose said, "Success has a lot to do with social and environmental impacts, but also, is this a financially sustainable model?"

Rose started by sending out an email to 25 of her friends and neighbors in the Table Mesa neighborhood. Within two days, she had five landowners willing to give over their backyards to vegetable production. Soon the Community United Church-Christ climbed on board. What she needed next was a head farmer.

That's where Jennifer "Fern" Deininger stepped in. Deininger has rich and varied agricultural experience and a diverse set of talents, including mechanics, art therapy, ice fishing, bread baking, and antique motor repair. "This is the blood that runs through my veins," said Deininger.

Deininger and Rose are committed to regenerative growing practices like sheet mulching, cover cropping, and responsible seed sourcing. They also source their fertility locally--wood chips from Taddiken Tree Company, aged sheep manure from Buckner Family Ranch, and tools from Resource Toolshare. A local farmer provides space for them to store compost. And high school students provide much of their labor.

No one was sure whether high school students actually would show up at 7:30 a.m. to grow vegetables--but they did. "They were a magical workforce," said Deininger.

Boundless Landscapes gives teenagers the opportunity to grow food, be leaders and change-makers, get off technology, and reconnect with nature."Our observation is that teenagers today need this," said Rose.

Boundless Landscapes distributes its produce through a CEA--Community Embedded Agriculture. Landowners receive a share of the produce, and 10% is donated to organizations like Harvest to Hope. The rest is sold to wholesale partners, including Blackbelly Market, and at a weekly neighborhood farmstand. Residents enjoy walking, biking, and even running to the farmstand to buy vegetables and socialize.

The 2019 pilot season was so successful that Boundless Landscapes is extending into six Boulder neighborhoods with up to 500 new households. They envision their model spreading as a hub and spoke system with 100-125 households in each neighborhood organized around a larger hub, like a church. Other new endeavors include tracking carbon sequestration and initiating a backyard composting program.

The website provides information about recruitment events for homeowners and high school interns (www.boundlesslandscapes.com). Those who fall outside the designated neighborhoods can help spread the word, follow Boundless Landscapes on social media, and commit to organic gardening and lawn care. In accordance with organic guidelines, Boundless Landscapes will only grow food in places that have been pesticide-free for at least three years.

Some have told Rose her hopes are too ambitious. "People say 500 is too many, but the boundless mindset is what allows us to weave a story that is compelling and inspiring... The time is now, action is paramount, and if we can do something about it, we should. It's about bold, broad action in service of positive change."

"We invite people to join us in that," added Deininger. "Be boundless with us."

A similar venture is on the horizon in Niwot. Learn more by visiting http://www.lefthandlandscaping.com or attending a free Introduction to Permaculture class at the Left Hand Grange on January 14th, 6:30-8 p.m.


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