Marin’s Diary: Reflections From Sister Gardens at Aria

My name is Marin Laferla and I am a senior at Regis University majoring in environmental studies with a minor in marketing. I got interested in environmental work after falling in love with nature. My love for nature made me want to protect it and I think the best way to protect these beautiful places is to involve the community who considers it their home. This commonality with Groundwork Denver is how I got involved with the organization. Throughout my internship at Groundwork, I spent time in the office, water sampling in Bear Creek, and farming at Sister Gardens at Aria. This is my diary entry about my internship experience working with the food program at Groundwork Denver.


September 14th, 2018 – 

A Mother-Son Volunteer Experience

It was an especially hot morning at Sister Gardens at Aria. The sun was shining and everyone was glistening with sweat from working in the sun. There were smiles all around as everyone was harvesting vegetables, watering, and pulling weeds. It was then that I noticed two volunteers laughing in a tomato bed. Mandy Zakacs and her son Remy have been volunteering at Sister Gardens for a month. When asked why she volunteers at the garden, she gave a simple response.

“It is a nice atmosphere and I am glad that, within the neighborhood and the city, there are community gardens,” Mandy said.

Sister Gardens is an urban farm managed by Groundwork Denver through its Urban Food program. As a part of the program, the garden works to embrace creative and eager minds, teaching them the value of urban farming, of nutrition, and of food justice. Sister Gardens also provides greater access to locally-grown produce, giving community members who are often overlooked more control over the food they eat.

Mandy brings Remy with her every time she volunteers at the garden.

“He loves gardening and its good for him to do real work. I tend to have him do real jobs in life, things that are meaningful,” Mandy mentioned.

To Mandy, the garden is a good teaching tool for her son. She wants to teach him the value of hard work and where food comes from, all while having fun.

“Growing your own food is really important to know the source of where your food comes from and that it doesn’t spontaneously appear on the grocery market shelves,” she ended.

October 4, 2018 –

The Community Around Food

It was a cool day with a breeze in the air. Fall was finally here and all around us with bountiful yields of squash and pumpkins at the garden and numerous volunteers chatting with their new friends and working hard. That was the case for one volunteer, Elias Garcia. Elias had been volunteering at Sister Gardens at Aria for two years and through this experience has found a community that supports him. When I asked why he came back every week he responded with certainty.

“The community and the opportunity to be a part of something that is fruitful. I think there are lots of things that can be learned and experienced while you are in the garden, and eventually you see the by-product which is fruit that everybody gets to enjoy,” Elias said.

Elias sees the value in growing food with the community and believes in the mission of the farm. Elias also sees his time in the garden as an opportunity to bring people together and to lead a healthy life by example.

“It has inspired me to start my own garden at my own house and then be able to come here and learn how to can foods which I really hadn’t known how to do before,” he said.

Volunteering at Sister Gardens is a way to get back into that healthy lifestyle and to do so with support from your whole community.

“This is pulling people back in and that community is centered around something that is organic, natural, and real. It’s not something you can masquerade,” he ended.


October 16, 2018 – 

A Community Surrounded by Nature

Today, Sister Gardens is full of volunteers trying to get outside and do their part. One of these volunteers is Eutemia Hernandez. Eutemia has been a volunteer for a year and comes back week after week.

“I love being close to nature; I love being aware and close to the cycles of nature. It’s hard to do in my city life. I have a little garden in my backyard, but I need more of it and need to feel the Earth more and be connected to it more. That’s why I keep coming back,” Eutemia said.

For me, starting every Monday morning off with the sun in my face and my hands in the dirt made me feel close to nature and made me feel like I was doing important work. It is uplifting to see all of your hard work pay off. Our hard work was producing food that the community could enjoy.

Eutemia talked about the importance of experiencing nature with the community and supporting each other through experiences.

“It is uplifting, I feel great being able to contribute to my own community and be a part of something positive in my community. I look forward to it. When I talk about it, I am enthused that it’s right in our backyard. We have a community garden and they distribute food to some of our favorite restaurants. I think it’s a really positive thing,” she continued.

To Eutemia, taking care of our community is one of the most important things.

“It’s where we live, it’s right where we are. It’s important to take care of where we are,” she ended.

And I couldn’t agree more. My time in the garden has been instrumental in my education and my life. I learned a lot about urban farming and the value in growing your own food, all while getting to be close to nature. I learned that the harder you work, the better the reward and that was exactly what I saw in the garden. I also met many amazing people that radiated kindness and positivity which I will never forget. My time at Sister Gardens at Aria was an amazing experience that I am so lucky to have had. 


-Marin Laferla